November 15, 1996


The Lake Superior Stage 1 Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) has been reviewed; the criteria for its evaluation were based on the relevant portions of the 1987 Protocol to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (the Agreement). The review was performed under the auspices of the International Joint Commission (Commission).


This Stage 1 LaMP is the first to be submitted by the Parties for review by the Commission. A reasonable designation of Critical Pollutants appears to have been accomplished. The LaMP documents the significant atmospheric loading of certain Critical Pollutants.

There are several shortcomings that limit the utility of the LaMP. It is understood that actions have been or will be undertaken to address these areas. The shortcomings noted in this review include:


Individuals with a wide range of technical capabilities and considerable Great Lakes expertise provided comments on the LaMP at the request of the Commission. The individuals and their areas of expertise are:

Richard Artz Air Deposition of Toxic Substances
Blair Bower Water Resources
Brian Gibson Human Health
Peter Dennis Water Resource Programs
John Ralston Water Resource Programs
Gerry Rees Water Resource Programs
Steve Salbach Water Resource Programs
Barbara Knuth Natural Resource Policy
Mark Cohen Air Deposition of Toxic Substances

Bruce Kirschner coordinated the LaMP review process. The Commission appreciates the time and effort provided by the individual reviewers and trusts that their specific comments, which are attached, will be useful in further development and implementation of the LaMP.

On February 23, 1996, Thomas L. Baldini, Chair of the United States Section, conducted a review meeting in Duluth, Minnesota with two reviewers, representatives of the Superior Work Group, members of the Lake Superior Binational Forum and interested public and media present. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the specific comments from individual reviewers and to gain a greater understanding of present activities and future plans related to the Lake Superior LaMP.


The Stage 1 LaMP for Lake Superior represents the first LaMP submitted to the Commission for review and comment. Since the development of the Lake Superior LaMP was a binational undertaking involving the binational Superior Work Group in consultation with the Lake Superior Binational Forum (Forum); the submission of this document to the Commission was a significant milestone.

Based on available information, the designation of Critical Pollutants appears to be reasonable. A conservative methodology was utilized, and a satisfactory mechanism is in place for revision of the Critical Pollutant list. The explicit criteria used to designate Critical Pollutants, based on beneficial use impairments, status of ecosystem objectives, comparison to ambient criteria "yardsticks" and inclusion in the Zero Discharge Demonstration Program, will make the rationale for any modification to the Critical Pollutant list obvious. The inclusion of the list of preventative pollutants in the LaMP should also facilitate an understanding of substances that have the potential for addition to the list of Critical Pollutants.

The LaMP documents the paucity of monitoring data for open lake waters. This lack of suitable data makes a reasonable definition of the threat to human health or aquatic life posed by Critical Pollutants difficult to achieve.

Since much of the information used in the LaMP to define problems was derived from RAPs rather than being developed independently, it is directed toward the impairment of beneficial uses rather than specifically addressing the threat to human health or aquatic life posed by Critical Pollutants. While the document does list seven substances cited by one or more agencies in fish consumption advisories, more attention should be directed to the threat to human health.

The LaMP document received by the Commission in September 1995 for review and comment was dated September 1995. The version distributed to the public was dated October 1993. The version transmitted to the Commission states, "This version (September 1995) does not contain substantive new information regarding pollution sources; therefore it will not be undergoing formal public comment." Accordingly, it appears that it would have been possible for the previous (October 1993) version of the LaMP to have then been submitted to the Commission for its review and comment. In the future, the Commission believes it would be more suitable to conduct its review in concurrence with the public review.

Annex 2 of the Agreement states, "Lakewide Management Plans shall embody a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses . . . in open lake waters." Therefore, care should be taken to ensure that a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses in the open lake waters of Lake Superior is used in the LaMP process. The completion of a Stage 1 Update that partially addressed various sources of loadings and the continued presence of significant data gaps related to loadings of Critical Pollutants suggest that the initial problem definition should have been broader.

The evaluation of information available on concentration, sources, and pathways of the Critical Pollutants in the Great Lakes System, including all information on loadings of the Critical Pollutants from all sources (that is to be included in a Stage 1 LaMP) contains acknowledged data gaps. Additional work to close these data gaps is already underway. It might be useful to present the available data in a more easily understood format to ensure support by the public for the future actions that are necessary to reduce loadings of Critical Pollutants. For example, sources, pathways and concentrations of Critical Pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/F) and toxaphene could be displayed in reader-friendly graphics so that a typical citizen could understand the true origins of some of the existing contamination. For example, Figure 1 of the LaMP document fails to capture the extent of the Lake Superior airshed and consequently the true scope of the problem of contaminant delivery to the Lake Superior Basin.


As noted earlier, based on the information available in the LaMP, the designation of Critical Pollutants appears to have been reasonable. The designation process would have benefitted from a more intensive literature search. For example, the Stage 1 LaMP should include a definition of the threat to human health or aquatic life posed by Critical Pollutants. This definition would consider the threat posed by Critical Pollutants, singly or in synergistic or additive combinations with another substance. The document submitted to the Commission relied heavily on information available from previously published RAPs, which by definition, do not focus on open lake waters. In addition, most RAPs, to date, have not focused explicitly on human health concerns and as a result neither does the Stage 1 Lake Superior LaMP. Based on fish consumption advisories, updates to the Stage 1 document should assess the threat to human health or aquatic life posed by: PCBs, PCDD/F, dieldrin, DDT (total), mercury, chlordane, and toxaphene (including toxaphene-like compounds). This assessment should include to the extent possible impacts of synergistic or additive combinations. To date, the threat to human health or aquatic life is not well defined and consequently, there is little reason to expect significant support from the public or other sectors for lifestyle changes or modifications to industrial processes that may be necessary to reduce loadings of Critical Pollutants.

Limited data are presented detailing the available information related to the Critical Pollutants in the Lake Superior System. The data that are presented document that non-point source pollution and sources of toxic pollutants outside the Lake Superior Basin and outside the Great Lakes Basin will be extremely important in future efforts to reduce the loadings of Critical Pollutants. Additional work is needed regarding the estimation of total loadings of Critical Pollutants. These estimates should be documented in either a Stage 1 Update or the Stage 2 (a determination of load reduction necessary to meet Agreement Objectives) LaMP.

Due to the significant atmospheric loading of certain Critical Pollutants, additional information is required in order to pursue development of the schedule of load reductions needed for the Stage 2 LaMP. Considerable work is already underway pursuant to Article VI of the Agreement, and additional information will be developed pursuant to Annex 15 of the Agreement. Two topics that require particular attention are: the significance of atmospheric loadings of Critical Pollutants to the Lake Superior Basin and the sources of Critical Pollutants from outside the Great Lakes Basin. The Canada-United States Strategy for the Virtual Elimination of Persistent Toxic Substances in the Great lakes Basin should be of considerable utility in addressing these topics.

The previously noted failure to define the Lake Superior airshed is a concern since sources outside of the Lake Superior Basin may contribute the majority of the loading to Lake Superior. Therefore, not only are the sources for the most part not defined, but it is not confirmed whether the sources are within the jurisdictions involved in developing the Lake Superior LaMP. Beyond concentrating on the relative few sources within the Lake Superior Basin, greater effort should be made to confirm the North American and global sources that are contributing to loadings. The necessity of defining the airshed and dealing with far-field sources is obvious. For example, table 14 in the LaMP shows that an estimated 157 pounds of the estimated 158.4 pounds of PCBs, that represent total annual loadings to Lake Superior, are derived from atmospheric sources. By contrast, 0.4 pound is expected to be derived from industrial point sources. Accordingly, far-field sources of certain Critical Pollutants must be addressed. Annex 15 of the Agreement states, "Where such contributions arise from sources beyond the jurisdiction of the Parties, the Parties shall notify the responsible jurisdiction and the Commission of the problem and seek a suitable response." If we are to deal adequately with all but the most minuscule sources for Critical Pollutants such as PCBs, additional effort should be directed toward confirming significant sources and quantification of loadings.


The Forum, a public advisory group for the Lake Superior Binational Program, is certainly an excellent example of meaningful public participation. Forum members should be recognized for their devotion as well as pertinent input. The Forum should represent the entire array of interests that are present in the Lake Superior Basin including the sports fishing sector. This sector could provide valuable input especially regarding threats to human health or aquatic life due to presence of Critical Pollutants.

The Forum has become very knowledgeable regarding Critical Pollutants, sources of Critical Pollutants, and the delivery of Critical Pollutants to Lake Superior. Initial efforts have been made to consult with the various communities within the Lake Superior Basin regarding the loading of Critical Pollutants to Lake Superior. As data gaps are filled, additional efforts should be undertaken in order to more fully consult with the public.


The current list of Critical Pollutants appears to be reasonable based on the evidence presented in the document. A suitable mechanism is in place to accommodate any potential revisions in the list of Critical Pollutants. The Lake Superior Stage 1 LaMP confirms the relative lack of data regarding the input of Critical Pollutants by air deposition to the Lake. Although data are limited, it appears that atmospheric deposition represents the dominant pathway for entry of most Critical Pollutants to Lake Superior. More effort should be devoted to the comprehensive documentation of far-field emission sources. Since many sources impact more than one lake, documentation of these sources could be coordinated with the LaMP efforts for the other lakes and the Strategy for Virtual Elimination. Steps to document these sources will help ensure that a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses is undertaken.

Efforts by the involved jurisdictions, particularly regarding work with the Forum, are notable and should serve as an example to other LaMP efforts. The Forum has proved to be of considerable utility, and the Parties should take any necessary steps to ensure it remains a productive undertaking and that lessons learned from its evolution are shared with other jurisdictions.