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International Souris River Board Fifty-Third Annual Report to the International Joint Commission Covering the Calendar Year 2011
International Souris River Board

Summary of activites of the International Souris River Board for the year 2011.

Information Available for an Instream Flow Analysis of the Red River
William G. Franzin

The objectives of this report are to present all relevant available information and data that would be useful in the development of an instream flow needs (IFN) recommendation for the Red River that would maintain the aquatic ecosystem, including fish and fish habitat, relative to quantitative water apportionment of this international river. The work includes identification of data gaps and necessary work that would be required to fill them.

Synthesis of Public Comment on the 2010 Progress Report under the Canada – United States Air Quality Agreement December 2011
International Joint Commission

This report provides a synthesis of the comments received on the 2010 Progress Report for the years 2008-2010. Comments generally expressed support for the Agreement process and the progress that has been made. Nonetheless, most respondents said that more needs to be done in order to achieve better air quality.

Devils Lake-Red River Basin Fish Parasite and Pathogen Project Qualitative Risk Assessment
International Red River Board, IJC

In 2006, Canadian and USA fish pathologists initiated a three year study to identify fish parasites and pathogens of Devils Lake that were not found at downstream locations and therefore could pose a risk to downstream fish and fisheries. At total of 7 species and 1616 fish were collected 4 from Devils Lake and 21 species and 4272 fish from six other locations in the Red River Basin including the Red River Delta and Lake Winnipeg in Canada. The fish were examined externally and internally for parasites, and appropriate tissues were collected for standardized microbiological assays and histology. Microbiological assays were conducted on a targeted group of known fish pathogens including viral and bacterial agents as well as other selected microbes.

A Proposed Approach to Developing a Basin-Wide Nutrient Management Strategy for the International Red River Watershed
International Red River Watershed Board

The development of a basin-wide plan for the management of nutrients within the shared international Red River watershed was agreed to as part of recent Four-Party discussions between the federal governments of the United States and Canada, the State government of North Dakota, and the Provincial government of Manitoba.

Rainy River 2D Hydrodynamic Modeling Study – Phase II
National Research Council Canada, IJC

Phase I involved the development of a series of hydrodynamic models to examine the conveyance of the upper Rainy River and Rainy Lake, perform dynamic simulations of several flood years and to examine the state of nature condition of the upper Rainy River.  Review of the Phase I findings identified a number of questions relating to the model and the upper Rainy River that required further investigation primarily relating to variable powerhouse performance, sensitivity of the hydrodynamic model, and simulations of the 1950 flood event.  This report constitutes the results of those investigations.

Transboundary Water Quality and Human Health Issues in an International Watershed Context: The St. Croix Watershed
International Joint Commission Health Professionals Task Force

This report provides a broad look at the boundary waters of St. Croix River Basin, identifying potential water quality issues and demonstrating how watershed management and health management issues are interrelated. It provides background information on existing and emerging water issues which have an associated human health component and provides information on agencies in both the United States and Canada which are involved in or are responsible for legislation, collection and analysis of information related to health and water issues, and implementation of water quality and quantity protection measures in the region.

15th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality
International Joint Commission

The International Joint Commission (IJC/Commission)’s Fifteenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality focuses on the nearshore zone, the critical ecological link between watersheds, tributaries, wetlands, groundwater, and offshore waters of the Great Lakes. Canada and the U.S. are currently negotiating to revise the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA); the IJC recommends explicit provisions be incorporated to address threats to nearshore water quality. Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) are the ideal geographic unit to coordinate and implement programs involving all governments and non-governmental organizations within hydrologic boundaries, using adaptive management. The reemergence of eutrophication – algal fouling caused by excessive nutrients such as phosphorus – is likely caused by inadequate municipal wastewater and residential septic systems, agricultural runoff, industrial livestock operations, tile drainage discharge, invasive mussel species, and climate change impacts. The report recommends new research and monitoring efforts similar to the Commission’s Pollution from Land Use Activities Reference Group (PLUARG) of the 1970s. In the interim there are several actions governments must take to reduce nonpoint and point pollution from agricultural and urban sources. Nonpoint source pollution impairs water quality at recreational beaches; the IJC recommends better public warning systems and a binational, standardized beach monitoring system. Federal support is needed for research to improve indicators of human health threats. With the Asian Carp threatening to invade the Great Lakes, the report recommends development and deployment of binational protocols for prevention and rapid response, and binational coordination to develop consistent fish consumption advisories. Groundwater faces a great range of threats, to be addressed by a basin-wide program involving research, monitoring, regulation, enforcement, and economic and tax incentives. The revised GLWQA must include provisions to deal with chemicals of emerging concern, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products; the report calls for research, monitoring, and a data repository dedicated to these chemicals’ effects.

A Digital Terrain Model of Bathymetry and Shallow-Zone Bottom-Substrate Classification for Spednic Lake and Estimates of Lake-Level-Dependent Habitat to Support Smallmouth Bass Persistance Modeling
USGS, International Joint Commission, International St. Croix River Watershed Board

In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey entered into a cooperative agreement with the International Joint Commission, St. Croix River Board to do an analysis of historical smallmouth bass habitat as a function of lake level for Spednic Lake in an effort to quantify the effects, if any, of historical lakelevel management and meteorological conditions (from 1970 to 2009) on smallmouth bass year-class failure. The analysis requires estimating habitat availability as a function of lake level during spawning periods from 1970 to 2009, which is documented in this report. Field work was done from October 19 to 23, and from November 2 to 10, 2009, to acquire acoustic bathymetric (depth) data and acoustic data indicating the character of the surficial lake-bottom sediments. Historical lake-level data during smallmouth bass spawning (May-June) were applied to the bathymetric and surficial-sediment type data sets to produce annual historic estimates of smallmouthbass-spawning-habitat area. Results show that minimum lake level during the spawning period explained most of the variability (R^2 = 0.89) in available spawning habitat for nearshore areas of shallow slope (less than 10 degrees) on the basis of linear correlation. The change in lake level during the spawning period explained most of the variability (R^2 = 0.90) in available spawning habitat for areas of steeper slopes (10 to 40 degrees) on the basis of linear correlation. The next step in modeling historic smallmouth bass year-class persistence is to combine this analysis of the effects of lake-level management on habitat availability with meteorological conditions.

Report of the Data Requirements in Support of Modelling and Hydrological Analysis Workshop in Chicago, IL
R. Halliday & Associates

The International Joint Commission (IJC) sponsored a workshop aimed at examining data requirements in support of modelling and hydrological analysis in Chicago on November 17-19, 2010. About 30 people, most of them IJC Board members or associates of IJC boards, attended the workshop. The workshop itself and the preparation of this workshop report were funded under the IJC’s International Watersheds Initiative (IWI). This was the second in a series of three modelling-related workshops. The third workshop will build on the findings of these two workshops and culminate in an IJC modelling framework.

Rainy River 2D Hydrodynamic Model Conveyance Study

NRC-CHC has prepared this report for the IJC in order to address some of the pressing issues in response to the communicated needs of the International Watersheds Initiative (IWI). The issues requiring investigation relate to Rainy Lake include the assessment of conveyance of the river reach from Rainy Lake to the dam structures at Fort Frances / International Falls. In this study a two-dimensional hydrodynamic model was developed for the Rainy Lake / Rainy River system upstream of the dam at International Fall / Fort Frances. This model was calibrated and validated to sets of observed flow conditions.

Modelling Initiative Needs Assessment Workshop, Winnipeg MB
Slmcleod Consulting; R. Halliday & Associates

On June 28-30, 2010, the International Joint Commission (IJC) sponsored a workshop aimed at assessing the modelling needs of its international boards. The workshop focused on hydrological, hydraulic and water quality modelling. About 30 people attended the workshop. The contributions of the presenters and participants are gratefully acknowledged. The workshop itself and the preparation of this workshop report were funded under the IJC’s International Watersheds Initiative (IWI).

Simulation of Flood Scenarios on the Lower Pembina River Flood Plains with the 2D Hydrodynamic Model

In order to minimize flood damages from overflows in the lower Pembina River Basin downstream of Walhalla, an initial two-dimensional numerical model was prepared in an attempt to simulate the flood propagation of the Pembina River more accurately than the existing one-dimensional models. This report first describes the modifications to the model, its calibration and its verification. Then it presents several scenarios that were simulated, representing changes in the infrastructure, including road removal, and the associated consequences in terms of the flooding extent of the Pembina River.

Determination of Natural Flow for Apportionment of the Red River
R Halliday & Associates, IJC

This report describes the geographical setting of the Red River basin in the interior plains of North America and provides some general information concerning water apportionment. It then goes on to review natural flow methodologies. The natural flow can be taken to be the flow that would occur if the effects of dams and diversions and other water uses were removed. Considering the effects of land use change and climate change are beyond the scope of the calculation. The report reviews the actual natural flow calculation and provides information on how the calculation can be accomplished.

Groundwater in the Great Lakes Basin: A Report of the SAB to the IJC
Great Lakes Science Advisory Board

Groundwater constitutes an immense unseen reservoir in the Great Lakes basin. It supports crucial ecosystem functions as well as being a source for drinking, agricultural, and industrial water. The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), the Council of Great Lakes Research Managers, and the Health Professionals Task Force collaborated to produce this priority Report that presents contemporary scientific understanding and research on Great Lakes basin groundwater. The Report scrutinizes threats to groundwater quality, issuing detailed Appendices for the most substantial of these: pathogens, chemical contaminants, on-site wastewater treatment systems, leaking underground storage tanks, hazardous waste sites, abandoned wells, de-icing compounds, confined animal feeding operations, and conveyance losses. Numerous case studies bear out the information, especially a concerted analysis of the Châteauguay aquifer system, the only international aquifer in the Great Lakes basin, located southwest of Montreal. Local industrial activity resulted in major contamination of the Mercier Esker in the early 1970s, forcing adjoining towns to abandon their municipal wells. Appendix L explores the patchwork of regulations, statutes, and common and civil law principles that currently constitutes groundwater law, primarily state and provincial but actually involving multiple levels of government. The regulatory regime is at present inconsistent, insufficient to protect groundwater quality and quantity and to prevent conflict over its use. The SAB advises the International Joint Commission (IJC) on how to emend Annex 16 of the GLWQA in order to grant due attention to groundwater. The IJC must oversee progress on groundwater issues and to designate a lead agency to report regularly to the Commission on relevant developments. Further recommendations to government include supporting research geared to comprehend groundwater and contamination sources; improving groundwater monitoring programs while developing comprehensive databases of incorporated information; adopting water source protection and conservation measures; regulating and otherwise acting upon identified groundwater threats.

Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River Final Report
Upper Great Lakes Study

This is the first of two reports on the St. Clair River portion for the bi-national Upper Great Lakes Study. The Study Board concludes that conveyance, glacial isostatic adjustment, and climactic patterns have decreased Lake Michigan-Huron and Lake Erie water-level difference. Also, no erosion along the length of the St. Clair River bed has taken place since at least 2000; previous fluctuations measured (1971-2000) were erroneous. On this basis, the Study Board recommends that remedial measures (to address past damages or adverse effects) not be undertaken in the St. Clair River at this time, and that the need for mitigative measures (to address possible future changes that might result in adverse effects) in the St. Clair River be examined as part of the comprehensive assessment of the future effects of climate change on water supplies in the upper Great Lakes basin in Report 2 of the Study, on Lake Superior regulation, to be completed in 2012. The Study Board also recommends that: bathymetric surveys be conducted every five years to monitor any changes in the bed of the St. Clair River; the four new stream flow gauging stations and the two eddy co-variance (evaporation) gauging stations installed as part of the Study be maintained following the completion of the Study in 2012; and accountability and coordination in the collection and management of essential data on the Great Lakes be strengthened by formalizing the mandate of the bi-national Coordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data and having the Committee formally report to the International Joint Commission.

IJC Activities Map
International Joint Commission - Commission mixte internationale

A large digital map with several insets depicts the Canada-United States transboundary drainage basins, using a GSC North American 1983 CSRS Coordinate System that shows land areas in true proportion. It includes statistics on boundary lengths. From west to east, the basins depicted in the insets are the Alaska-Yukon, Columbia River, Old Man River, Milk River, Souris River, Red River, Rainy River, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and St. Croix River. The document summarizes historical events and political landmarks related to watershed management for each. They are also indexed to their respective Articles in the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. There are four basins that are piloted in the International Watershed Initiative (Red River, Souris River, Rainy Lake and River, and St. Croix River). Additional captions reference activities of the International Air Quality Advisory Board and report on action regarding particulate matter and sulfur dioxides in the Detroit/Windsor/Sarnia/Port Huron region.

Synthesis of Public Coment on the 2008 Progress Report under the Canada-Unites States Air Quality Agreement
Air Quality Advisory Board

The 1991 Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement Report (AQA) instituted a bilateral Air Quality Committee (AQC), led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, to implement the AQA by organizing action to mitigate transboundary air pollution. This report provides a synthesis of the fifteen commentaries on the AQC’s 2008 biennial Progress Report received upon open invitation by the International Joint Commission (IJC). Response was on the whole positive. Government submissions were brief and tended to stress their own efforts to improve air quality. Submissions from non-governmental organizations were mixed, most offering detailed analysis on the content of the Progress Report, suggesting improvements and corrections. Respondents approved the AQA itself, applauding reduction in air pollution emissions and deposition levels achieved by work done under the Agreement’s auspices. Both Canada and the U.S. are meeting or surpassing their mutual obligation to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxides (SO2), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Respondents thought the Progress Report was clear and comprehensive, but some expressed concern that it failed to adequately address certain problems or regions, and lacked consistency. Detailed comment on the acid rain and ozone annexes, and progress made towards meeting contiguous commitments, ensues. In the Section on Scientific and Technical Collaboration and Research, respondents appreciated the foundational data on critical loads and exceedances. One pointed out that NOx emissions in the two countries are not comparable as presented; another that ammonia concentrations are sampled biweekly as part of a new initiative to implement a pilot network. Further technical emendations and other comments are duly recorded by the IJC for review and to benefit future work of the AQC.

14th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality
International Joint Commission - Commission mixte internationale

The International Joint Commission (IJC/Commission)’s 14th Biennial Report focuses on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement’s (GLWQA) Article VI.1(a), which calls for programs to reduce, control, and prevent pollution from municipal sources entering the Great Lakes System. Municipal wastewater derives from household, commercial, and industrial sources as well as stormwater. In Canada and the U.S. it is managed by combined sewer systems (CSSs), separate sanitary sewer systems (SSSs), and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). The report explains how system malfunctions or overflows release high concentrations of contaminants into the environment. Wastewater treatment facilities reduce contaminant levels through advanced technologies, but even once treated, wastewater can contain harmful levels of microorganisms, such as viruses, parasites or protozoa. Effluent discharge from sewage treatment plants is described as point-source pollution because it comes from one place in a concentrated manner; considerable water pollution in the Great Lakes basin comes from point sources. The IJC Report draws on documentation from Environment Canada, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, and the Environmental Protection Agency, including data on fecal coliform levels, the three levels of sewage treatment technology, and the National Pollutant Release Inventory. The report details public notification procedures and multi-level government oversight of wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. and Canada. The IJC enacted a survey of dischargers on both sides of the border (see reports on the IJC website), a performance analysis of ten treatment facilities, and review of the environmental compliance of wastewater treatment plants in the five binational Areas of Concern (AOCs). Case studies highlight the success of wastewater management initiatives in Toronto and Milwaukee, but the performance analysis and compliance review reveal that suitable water quality protection in receiving waters still requires considerable work. Economic consequences of polluted wastewater discharge include increased costs for treating drinking water, decreases in property value, lost productivity from illness, increased health care costs and lost revenue from recreation. The IJC recommends that economic stimulus measures address wastewater system needs, that the permitting process for municipal and industrial dischargers take a watershed management approach, that third-party audits improve compliance with Great Lakes water quality standards, and that green infrastructure complement traditional infrastructure investments; cost estimates are provided.

IJC Annual Report 2008 (Boundary Water Treaty Centennial Edition)
International Joint Commission - Commission mixte internationale

The 2008 Annual Report is expanded due to the centenary of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty (BWT) that founded the International Joint Commission (IJC). The BWT’s purpose is to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of waters shared by Canada and the U.S. and to ameliorate transboundary problems involving pollution, diversions, water infrastructure, and environmental conditions. A celebration of the centenary occurred in June 2009 at Niagara Falls. Conferences and other activities are scheduled throughout the year to mark the occasion. The report outlines the IJC’s organizational structure, responsibilities, and key procedures, such as references. It maps transboundary drainage basins and draws examples from 100 years of projects to demonstrate the IJC’s multifarious scope and success: for instance, deflecting inundation in the Skagit River valley, postponing coal mine development on the Flathead River until parties agreed on mitigating risks, monitoring flood- and pollution-mitigation strategies on the Red River and Rainy River, initiating a study of phosphorus sources on water quality in Missisquoi Bay, and creating a variety of programs work groups to support ecosystem integrity in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. In response to dam operations and diversions affecting cross-boundary water levels in numerous lakes and rivers, the IJC instituted binational rules for regulating water levels and flows, instituted a binational apportionment regime, issuing Orders where necessary, arranged to protect and indemnify affected interests, merged oversight groups, instigated investigations and scientific assessment, and convened discussion. The report describes the development and achievements of the International Watershed Initiative. The IJC’s strong track record on air quality advocacy continued in 2008. The IJC participates in exchanges with international organizations that seek to learn about international cooperation in managing multi-regional and cross-boundary water systems. One current exchange twins organizations from the great lakes regions of North America and Africa.

GLWQA Priorities 2007-09 Series: Work Group Report on Eutrophication
Work Group Report

The adverse environmental and economic impacts of eutrophication to water ecosystems are well established. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), particularly Annex 3 on Control of Phosphorus (P), precipitated the bilateral work that helped abate eutrophication in the 1970s-80s. Since the early 1990s eutrophication has resurged in nearly all the Great Lakes, as indicated by excessive blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria) blooms, rotting masses of green macro-algae (Cladophora), unstable P-concentrations, dissolved oxygen depletion, botulism toxicity, and desertification. The IJC’s Work Group on Eutrophication organized workshops where Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) and weight-of-evidence (WOE) processes were utilized to evaluate eutrophication hypotheses and cause-effect relations. The third such workshop was completed by stakeholders associated with the Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP). FCMs are graphical representations of the perceived relationships connecting concepts in a system; the Report exhibits diagrams of the FCMs produced at the workshops. The attendant analyses demonstrate the complex conditions influencing eutrophication-related phenomena, for instance the environmental factors affecting Soluble Reactive Phosphorus (SRP) dynamics. The workshops identified evidence-based management targets including sewage treatment plants, urban stormwater, rural septic systems, and agricultural non-point sources. The 2009-2011 Priorities cycle must continue to analyze these findings and to undertake a review of contemporary literature. Although public perception of the eutrophication problem tends to disregard scientific uncertainty, it supports a range of “no regrets” actions that will improve eutrophic waters without further anthropomorphic nutrient increase; several innovative approaches to nutrient control are outlined. The IJC must educate the public and stakeholder communities on changes in lake hydrology and ecological structure that cause eutrophication. Research needs to include redirection of algal biomass to beneficial use (e.g., green energy), wastewater reuse for P-loss reduction, and enhanced monitoring programs such as monitoring of algal fouling to protect meso-and oligotrophic lakes. Solutions must be watershed-specific.

GLWQA Priorities 2007-09 Series: Work Group Report on Beaches & Recreational Water Quality
Work Group Report

Clean, healthy beaches are ecologically and economically important and enhance quality of life for recreational users. Besides those 822 actively monitored in the Great Lakes, many beaches remain inadequately assessed. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) identifies microbiological performance criteria as a specific objective and uses beach closures as an index of water quality, hence the IJC assigned a Work Group to engage this Priority. The concomitant report surveys investigations of various contaminant sources, both point (such as industrial and municipal effluents) and non-point (including faulty waste treatment systems and agricultural runoff). Severe weather caused by climate change can cause sewer overflow, beach erosion, and dissemination of unsafe materials into the watershed. Poor water quality generates negative socioeconomic effects. Water quality surveillance standards vary considerably within the Great Lakes region; the Report surveys inconsistencies in current practices regarding sample collection, laboratory analysis, beach advisory criteria, microbial source tracking, and consideration of Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB). It considers the forecasting implications of predictor variables such as bacteria fluctuation, precipitation, turbidity, water temperature, and wind, and weighs the emergent predictive models against persistence models. Rapid detection methods can prevent contamination. The report surveys epidemiological studies on the occurrence of human pathogens in Great Lakes beaches and resulting illnesses, such as occurred at a Lake Michigan beach in Wisconsin in July 2002. The Annapolis protocol adopted by the World Health Organization could serve as a model for Great Lakes beaches risk management, while the city of Racine is a role model in eliminating the need for beach advisories. Appendices present a beach activities matrix of current monitoring initiatives and recommendations on a Government Accountability Office Report. The IJC is encouraged to ensure the execution of specific strains of research, comparison of forecasting models, and development of binational monitoring protocols and criteria.

GLWQA Priorities 2007-09 Series: Work Group Report on Chemicals of Emerging Concern
Work Group Report

Chemicals of Emerging Concern (CECs) were identified as a Priority in the 2007-2009 Biennial cycle. The IJC assigned a Work Group to evaluate the effect of CECs in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (GLBE), and to use the results to advise the IJC on approaches that can be applied to the binational policy framework. CECs, as distinguished from legacy pollutants, encompass an array of previously insignificant, misunderstood, or non-existent chemicals now being discovered in increasing environmental concentrations. The Report defines and classes these compounds with a specific eye to their occurrence in the GLBE. It outlines their real and potential dangers. It reviews relevant, as yet fledgling scientific literature on CECs. Alongside industrial, municipal, and agricultural sources of CECs, consumer products and wastewater treatment plants are pinpointed as major, poorly controlled sources of CEC pollution. Solutions must begin in advance of the end-of-pipe stage, including stricter enforcement of wasteful and pollutive practices. Improved monitoring and research will require as yet undeveloped tools and technologies. A review of current binational, multi-level policies and programs is followed by an appraisal of gaps in the management framework, and recommendations to address problems with informed and coordinated strategies.

GLWQA Priorities 2007-09 Series: Work Group Report on Binational Aquatic Invasive Species Rapid-Response Policy Framework
Work Group Report

The Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) priority was assigned a Work Group in 2007. AIS pose a significant threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem in terms of habitat and water quality degradation, loss of native species biodiversity, disruption of food webs, and algal blooms. These species also create significant economic impacts. This report surveys scientific studies of these effects and assesses current conditions. It specifies particularly prolific and troublesome AIS among the 180 alien species detected in the Great Lakes basin. Of the varied pathways for AIS introduction, ballast is the largest culprit since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. Other factors such as climate change exert further strain on efforts to manage AIS. The difficulty of eradicating AIS once established necessitates preventive measures or, failing that, early detection and rapid response. The report focuses and defines the latter approach. Rapid response protocols are shown to have been successful in AIS problem solving; therefore, a binational, legislated directive and funding mandate is needed for effective multi-agency response to be marshaled and for resources to be effectively allocated. The report outlines previous policy development, listing existing institutional arrangements, and proposes a policy framework where science, government, and industry are all key players. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are deemed the appropriate lead federal agencies; the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission is also asked to convene. The IJC is summoned to develop a rapid response plan tailored to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system, to assist in its implementation, and to amend the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to address these developments.

GLWQA Priorities 2007-09 Series: Work Group Report on Benefits & Risks of Great Lakes Fish Consumption
Work Group Report

The Work Group was assigned to assess current knowledge on the risks and benefits of consumption of Great Lakes fish, and to determine a quantitative method of measuring these. Their report, extensively referenced, explains the biochemical components of fish and other foods and how they interact nutritionally with human organisms. Countering health benefits are associated risks, the most serious being chemical contamination of fish and their consumers by environmental exposure. The water pollutants most emphasized are polychlorinated biphenyls and methyl mercury, since they are prevalent in Great Lakes fish and are known toxins. The report describes the bioaccumulation process and its adverse effects to humans who imbibe contaminated fish. Although several ministries and agencies already monitor contamination levels and issue advisories, there is insufficient information on key topics such as the levels and benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in Great Lakes fish. The Work Group reviews studies specific to the Great Lakes. Funding is essential for further identified research topics. Examples of current programs to control inactive (existing, legacy) and active (emerging, expanding) sources of contamination are given. Policy and legislation must be strengthened to minimize external emissions and internal sources of contaminants. Public education and outreach campaigns must evolve to include communities that remain remote in today’s telecommunications world. It is not possible at present to determine net benefits versus risks of Great Lakes fish consumption; the public should follow advisories already being issued. It is suggested that the 2009-2011 priority cycle see building upon the foundation of technical knowledge compiled, to engage researchers, agency personnel, and representatives of sensitive populations to discuss approaches for risk/benefit analysis and remedial action.