October 23, 2003



Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for designated Areas of Concern (AOCs) are to be developed and implemented by the Parties (Canadian and U.S. Governments) in cooperation with State and Provincial Governments. The AOCs are geographic areas that fail to meet the general or specific objectives of the Great Lakes Water Agreement (the Agreement) where such failure has caused or is likely to cause impairment of the beneficial use or of the area=s ability to support aquatic life. The RAPs are to be submitted to the International Joint Commission (Commission) for review and comment at three stages:

  • stage 1-when a definition of the problem has been completed;
  • stage 2-when remedial and regulatory measures are selected; and
  • stage 3-when monitoring indicates that identified beneficial uses have been restored.

As defined in 4(d)(ii) and 4(a)(iii-vi), respectively, of Annex 2 of the Agreement, Stage 2 RAPs are to be submitted to the Commission for review and comment and are to contain:

  • an evaluation of remedial measures in place;
  • an evaluation of alternative additional measures to restore beneficial uses;
  • a selection of additional remedial measures to restore beneficial uses;
  • a schedule for their implementation; and
  • an identification of the persons or agencies responsible for implementation of remedial measures.

In addition to these required Stage 2 elements, Annex 2 of the Agreement also details general principles for RAPs that include:

  • RAPs shall embody a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses in Areas of Concern; and,
  • the Parties, in cooperation with State and Provincial Governments, shall ensure that the public is consulted in all actions undertaken pursuant to this Annex.

Accordingly, the Commission=s evaluation of a RAP at any stage includes consideration of an ecosystem approach to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses and an assessment of the adequacy of public consultation as well as the Annex 2 requirements for that particular stage RAP submitted for the Commission=s review and comment. Thus, the Commission=s review and comments on the Stage 2 St. Marys River RAP reflect an assessment of the document submitted in relation to the five Stage 2 requirements outlined above, consideration of the implementation of an ecosystem approach to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses, and an assessment of adequacy of public consultation.

General Comments

Have in-place remedial measures been evaluated?

Completed and in-progress remedial measures are described and evaluated in chapter four of the Stage 2 RAP. Major projects for the control of point source pollution include sewer separation in Sault Ste.Marie, Michigan, construction of Algoma Steel Incorporated=s main filtration plant, a basic oxygen furnace emissions project, a blast furnace contact water recirculation facility and completion of St. Marys Paper Limited=s secondary treatment facility.

As reported in the Stage 2 RAP, the cost of these enhancements was about seventy million dollars. Quantification of water quality and other environmental improvements that have accrued from completion of these projects would raise the profile of these accomplishments and confirm their contribution to the restoration of beneficial uses in the St. Marys River AOC.

The Commission emphasizes that suitable monitoring programs must be in place to fully measure and report on the benefits of these considerable investments. The recommendation of enhanced monitoring programs is also consistent with previous recommendations. For example, the St. Marys River Area of Concern Status Assessment (December 1998) ( recommended the initiation of a suitable monitoring program. Additionally, the Four Agency Framework notes a commitment to monitoring. Among the Stage 2 document=s recommendations are a monitoring system for stormwater and a monitoring study regarding contaminant discharges from water pollution control plants (WPCPs) in the AOC. Based on the content of the Stage 2 report, it is not clear whether there is a commitment to initiate these programs. Such monitoring is necessary to track beneficial use restoration and will be essential to evaluate progress related to the implementation of required remedial measures.

The document details the project through which the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario will install sewage overflow tanks, make upgrades to increase primary treatment capacity, add secondary treatment to the East End WPCP and rehabilitate sewers in areas of high infiltration. In 1994, the Point Source Task Team noted the contribution of contaminants of concern, from associated point sources, to beneficial use impairment in the St. Marys River. As indicated by the RAP document, upgrading of the East End WPCP could prevent localized algal blooms, sediment contamination, and public beach closings on Sugar Island.

Completed and in-progress remedial measures for sediment and other non-point sources of pollution and actions to restore and protect flora and fauna are also described in chapter four. Included is the excavation and removal of 33,000 tons of tannery waste materials and contaminated soil from the Cannelton Industries Incorporated site. However, the contribution to the restoration of beneficial uses is not described.

Have alternative additional measures to restore beneficial uses been evaluated?

Approximately sixty recommended actions to restore beneficial uses are described in chapter six of the document. These actions address a variety of issues such as: the control of industrial and municipal point sources, a management program for sediment remediation, the restoration of fish and wildlife habitat, monitoring the effectiveness of restoration activities, and the need to transfer information to interested citizens and communities.

In some instances, the measures identified are steps toward quantification of environmental problems, a Stage 1 requirement, rather than the selection of remedial measures, a Stage 2 requirement . For example, the document describes the need for continuation of sediment mapping until all significant zones of contaminated sediment have been included. The document notes that, prior to sediment remediation, it would be necessary to implement a strategy to identify and control all major point and non-point sources of contaminant loadings. Accordingly, the evaluation of potential remedial measures, a Stage 2 requirement, cannot be completed until these Stage 1 activities such as the identification of sources of contaminant loadings are completed.

The document notes that some of the delisting criteria are open to subjective interpretation and this issue could cause problems. Water use goals and restoration [delisting] criteria were developed to assist in the identification and selection of recommended remedial measures. With the exception of the degradation of fish and wildlife populations beneficial use impairment, the delisting criteria appear concise and scientifically defensible. In the case of degraded fish and wildlife populations, the document notes that the delisting criterion for sea lamprey control should be guided by Sea Lamprey Control Centre goals and objectives to control sea lamprey in the St. Marys River. However, no specific criterion is detailed in the St. Marys Stage 2 RAP. Control of the sea lamprey and other invasive species should be viewed as environmental concerns which may extend well beyond the scope of any particular RAP effort.

Have additional remedial measures to restore beneficial uses been selected?

The Stage 2 RAP clearly enumerates, in Table 8.1 [and Table E.2], the recommended actions that have been determined as necessary to restore beneficial uses. The document notes that it is considered to be a work in progress and, in some cases, the intent is to acquire more refined and current information to definitively recommend management actions to restore beneficial uses. Additional information, particularly in regard to the selection of remedial measures to address contaminated sediment, is clearly needed to fulfil the Stage 2 RAP requirements.

Has a schedule for implementation been adopted and have persons and agencies responsible for implementation of remedial measures been identified?

The document notes that an implementation annex, to be issued subsequently, will identify the roles, responsibilities, costs, and time-lines for implementation of remedial measures. Much of the information that may be available in the implementation annex is necessary to meet Stage 2 RAP requirements.

Has an ecosystem approach been taken to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses?

An ecosystem approach to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses incorporates a comprehensive evaluation of the contributors to the impairment of beneficial use(s) in the AOC. The RAP effort has utilized an ecosystem approach to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses in the St. Marys River AOC. The RAP considers surface water contamination due to pollutants from all sources and via all environmental exposure pathways. The St. Marys River RAP effort has clearly recognized the potential for the contribution of contaminants from the atmosphere, contaminated sediment and landfill sites to surface waters within the AOC. Further demonstrating an ecosystem approach, the document addresses non-chemical stressors, specifically noting that the AOC is a major contributor of sea lamprey infestation to northern Lake Huron and confirming that commercially important species such as whitefish, sturgeon, lake trout, and walleye are no longer as abundant. The RAP also notes that fish populations have been impaired by overfishing, introduction of exotic species, accumulation of toxic chemicals, water level fluctuations, and habitat destruction through shoreline alteration, dredging, and development.

Was the public consulted adequately?

The RAP effort established a Binational Public Advisory Council (BPAC) and confirmed the mandate for an Education and Reporting Task Team. The BPAC supported the creation of the AFriends of the St. Marys River@. The Commission understands that operation of the BPAC is no longer fully funded. Additionally, some components of a Stage 2 RAP, such as the selection of a remedial measure(s) to address contaminated sediment, remain uncompleted. To ensure that the public is adequately consulted during the remaining phases of the RAP, additional measures will need to be considered to compensate for the absence of BPAC activity.


The RAP participants have precisely detailed many of the remedial actions recommended for implementation. It is understood that additional information such as implementation schedules including enumeration of responsible agencies or organizations will be developed and provided to the Commission at a future date in the form of an implementation annex. The Commission will then assess whether Stage 2 RAP requirements have been fully met. This information will enable the RAP effort to accelerate implementation. In particular, ranking of the recommended actions to prioritize future remedial efforts would be useful.

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