Niagara Community Observatory The Niagara River Remedial Action Plan: 25 Years of Environmental Restoration Author: Annie Michaud, P.Eng.
Niagara Community Observatory • History: • By the 1970s there were approximately 700 chemical plants, steel mills, oil refineries and other industries discharging millions of gallons of wastewater into the Niagara River each day • Soaring pollution levels combined with mounting political pressure and public notoriety resulted in commitments from both sides of the border to clean-up the Niagara River • Amendment to the Great Lakes Water • Quality Agreement called for development • and implementation of Remedial Action • Plans (RAPs) to restore ecosystem health • in 43 Areas of Concern (AOC) 3
Niagara Community Observatory • Successes: Water Quality • 18 priority pollutants were targeted for reduction by the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan (NRTMP) • There have been significant reductions in the concentrations of most of the priority pollutants (with reduction greater than 50% in many cases) • Pollutant loads for the 18 priority pollutants have been reduced by up to 99% from monitored point sources in Ontario • It is estimated that the remediation of U.S. • hazardous waste sites have reduced potential • pollutant inputs to the river by over 90% • Additional benefits of reducing pollutant loads • entering the river include reduced contamination • of river sediment and improved ecosystem health
Niagara Community Observatory • Successes: Sediment • A total of 14 contaminated sediment sites were identified within the Niagara River AOC during the early phases of the RAP • 2 of the 14 sites required remedial actions to address elevated levels of sediment contamination, such as the removal of contaminated sediment for off-site disposal • One site is using monitored natural recovery with administrative controls as a passive remediation method • It was found that no further action was • warranted at the remaining sites due to • low levels of contaminants, and that these • sites would recover naturally over time 7
Niagara Community Observatory • Successes: Beneficial Uses • Since first identified in 1993, several beneficial uses have been restored or re-assessed, and are no longer considered impaired • Scientific studies led or supported by the Niagara River RAP over the past 25 years have provided a greater understanding of the river’s chemistry, biology, and ecology • Long-term commitment and collaboration from many stakeholders throughout the RAP process, including extensive consultation with the public during all stages of its development • Ecological restoration efforts in the Great Lakes basin have been found to generate significant economic benefits in metropolitan areas in the form of increased property values
Niagara Community Observatory • Challenges: • Some beneficial uses continue to be impaired - these remaining impairments are the result of decades of environmental degradation • Pollutant concentrations in the Niagara River have declined steadily in recent years, however; the restoration of the surrounding ecosystem will require many more years to achieve • Restoring beneficial uses in the Niagara River AOC requires a tremendous amount of scientific information for a very broad spectrum of disciplines, and there are gaps in current knowledge • Many of the environmental issues facing the Niagara River and its tributaries are complex and require long-term investments in monitoring and assessment to determine improvements over the course of many years
Niagara Community Observatory • Conclusion: • Significant progress has been made in the Niagara River AOC since the RAP process was first initiated in 1987 • Successes achieved to date include significant improvements in water quality, the clean-up of contaminated sediments, and the use of new technologies in restoring impaired beneficial uses • The long-term success of the Niagara River • RAP will lie in demonstrating to its many • stakeholders through monitoring and • assessment that it is meeting its restoration • targets, and steadily moving forward towards • delisting
Thank you For more information: www.brocku.ca/niagara-community-observatory