Binational Toxics Strategy Meeting

Remarks by the Honorable Susan Bayh, Commissioner, International Joint Commission at the Binational Toxics Strategy Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, May 16, 2000

I am most pleased to represent the International Joint Commission at this important meeting of the Binational Toxics Strategy. We too are most interested in "Meeting the Challenge" and appreciate your efforts to do so.

The IJC, has strongly supported efforts to develop a binational toxics strategy. As far back as 1983, in our first biennial report under the Water Quality Agreement, the Commission called for a toxic substances strategy. At that time, the Commission expressed concern that, in the face of the problems posed by persistent toxic chemicals, the programs underway to restore the "chemical, physical and biological integrity" of the Great Lakes ecosystems did not appear to be systematic, binational, and comprehensive. The Binational Toxics Strategy represents this broader approach.

When, in 1987 the agreement was amended with a "protocol," several annexes were added to the agreement, including those covering airborne toxic chemicals, sediments, and groundwater. These additions reflected the increased scientific understanding of the routes and pathways of exposure of people and various ecological systems to toxic chemicals. With the addition of these annexes, there was clearly a more comprehensive approach to the solving the problems associated with persistent toxic substances. In this regard, I am here today to give special support to your efforts to deal with air pathways.

Following the '87 amendments, you began to attack the eleven persistent toxic chemicals proposed to you by the IJC as first priority targets. This "Dirty dozen minus one" represented the worst offenders in the Great Lakes region, and control of these chemicals would make major inroads in improving ecosystem quality. Across both nations, you have worked hard to reduce many of these chemicals, even outright banning some of them from commerce. Today, many of them lie dormant in sediments and resurface under chemically suitable conditions to recycle through the environment. Others remain in commercial use outside of the North American continent and travel to the Great Lakes on atmospheric currents where they deposit in the waters and on the land and again become problems for the various ecosystems.

The Commission strongly supports your efforts to deal both with control of toxic chemicals from sources within the basin and the considerable portion of the toxic chemical loadings to the Great Lakes that originates outside of the basin. We believe that it is important for the Strategy to identify these non-basin sources, quantify them, determine their impact and effects, categorize them as to the extent to which they contribute to specific exposure routes for organisms and ecosystems, and to look at possible measures to mitigate them. For many toxic compounds a sometimes dominant route of transmission is via the atmosphere directly to water surfaces.

It will be impossible to provide our sought-after virtual elimination without addressing all relevant sources of pollution.

With this in mind, I am here today to suggest that we work together on a systematic approach in the Binational Strategy analysis and implementation to address these atmospheric pathways. This includes consideration of the effects of climate and the chemistry of specific toxic chemicals in the atmosphere and during depositional processes of rainfall, snowfall and dry deposition.

The Commission believes that:

We are heartened to learn of the establishment of monitoring stations in Belize and Barrow, Alaska and proposed stations in Mexico. We are also pleased to learn about the stations in the Yukon and Canadian eastern arctic regions. The Alaskan and northern Canadian stations have confirmed the movement of pollutants on air masses from northern Europe, Siberia and Asia over the polar regions to North America. The station in Belize and the proposed station in Mexico should enhance our understanding of the movement of pollutants on air masses in the equatorial region and gulf of Mexico.

The Commission has called upon its International Air Quality Advisory Board and its Water Quality Board to explore some of these problems. As many of you know, last fall, the two Boards jointly conducted a moot court on air issues. The Water Quality Board will be examining issues related to progress on the Binational Toxics Strategy during this coming biennial cycle.

Our Air Board, using the HYSPLIT model, looked at distant sources and determined what portion would arrive at a specific Great Lakes location. It also looked at specific in-basin locations to see what contribution to the pollution loadings could be inferred to originate at possible distant sources. The Air Board tested dioxin and, although the emission inventory was imperfect and there was a shortage of monitoring data, the simulated results had relatively good agreement with the known information. HYSPLIT seems to offer much promise but extensive further work by the Board is beyond its charter or our ability to fund it.

However, the Commission and the Air Board are most willing to work with the Binational Strategy work group leaders in EPA, NOAA and Environment Canada to discuss the enhancements that are needed in modeling. We are willing to undertake a joint project, subject to support from the governments, to demonstrate the application of an air trajectory model to develop a strategy for dioxin control from sources in a selected region of North America.

Our Air Board co-chair, Don Mackay, is here today along with board member, Wayne Draper and board secretary, John McDonald. Also here with them are Debra Meyer from Gary Foley's office at EPA and Mark Cohen, from Richard Artz's office at NOAA. They look forward to participating in the workgroup sessions and are available for one-on-one discussions.

Let me close. The Commissioners of the IJC have strongly supported a Binational Toxics Strategy and appreciate your work. We recognize the many challenges that you face, both in science and in resources. We are prepared to work with you to establish secure and adequate funding for your efforts. But, as we move ahead, we need to ensure that we are not limiting the consideration of toxics to those that have their sources in the basin. Air pathways from outside the basin are significant and we must work together to ensure that they are properly and effectively considered in the overall strategy. Again, the Commission and our Air Board stand ready to assist.

I wish you a most successful meeting. What you do is so very important to our two countries.

Thank you.

Revised: 29 May 2000
Maintained by: Doug Bondy,