1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
SATURDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 25
QUESTIONS AND DISCUSSION
This does conclude the formal portion of the governments' presentation this morning. If we could have the lights come back on, we would now like to ask you for your comments or questions, and allow you to share your concerns with us and ask us questions. Thank you.
Paula Dupere, President, Joyce Foundation
I can't believe I'm the only person who has a question after all these presentations, but maybe I am, so I have plenty of questions.
I'm the new president of the Joyce Foundation, which is, as many of you know, very active in funding various initiatives to protect the quality of life in the Great Lakes region. We have a very strong environment program. Two of our program officers are here. We fund a lot of the advocacy that goes on around the Great Lakes and I am very proud to have assumed this position. I have a number of concerns, as someone who also didn't grow up in the region. I grew up in the northeast.
A couple of things, and this is probably in the SOLEC papers, but I was curious about whether or not there are really some strong economic indicators being built into the state-of-the-lakes process. I see huge disconnect all the time. The mayor talked about economics last night, but most of you talked, almost strictly, about natural phenomenon today. I am curious about the extent to which economic indicators are really being built into the state-of-the-lakes data gathering, primarily because the priorities the people don't seem to be represented in the data gathering. As you all know the science of developing indicators is not new. There are millions of efforts going on all around the world to develop usable indicators, but I still never see enough really meaningful integration of the economic and the environmental indicators. So I'd be curious about that.
Two, I didn't see in the presentation on toxic sediments a statement about the percentage of sites that have been identified as priority for clean-up. What percentage of those priorities sites are under way and if it's a low percentage, I would be very curious to know what you think are the three priority bottlenecks for not moving quicker on that sedimentation problem.
With respect to the tumors on the zooplankton, our colleague used the word significant, but I would want to say that's quite a worrying development even though we don't know exactly what it means. I would urge you not to underplay it, at the same time that you are trying not to alarm the public, but it's certainly a rather unique phenomenon. If you know of other water systems in the world where are tumors on zooplankton, I would like to know about it.
I guess I'll stop there. Mainly I'm asking all this because we are in the process of reconfiguring our grant making and certainly these are priority areas for us. Thank you. One final question. I would love to know if you know the potential for jobs creation in the sedimentation clean-up process. Even if you know how many jobs have been created, long-term jobs, for how far you've gotten up to now, but if there was a way to quantify the numbers involved, I would be curious about that too.
Thank you. First of all let me just introduce three of my staff from U.S. EPA. First, Dave Ullrich, who is my Deputy Regional Administrator. I think many of you know these three individuals that I'm going to address. The second, is Jodi Traub, who is our Water Division Director. Finally, Gary Gulezian. Gary is our Great Lakes National Program Manager all headquartered at U.S. EPA, Region 5. I would expect that I will call on all three of them from time to time during this question and answer session. I don't know if we have any microphones out there ...
Yes, they are working.
Good. Is the remote mike working? Okay.
David Ullrich, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
With respect to the zooplankton question, I think we really don't know the significance of that at this time. I don't think that I would either overplay or underplay the phenomenon. I would simply state that it's new. I think -- Gary, help me out -- I think that we just found out about it in the last six months. Quite literally, we've just found out about this and we really don't know the significance of it. There are studies that are being developed in the state of Michigan regarding this. U.S. EPA is supporting those studies and, in fact, providing samples in support of those studies. Gary do you have anything to add to that?
Gary Gulezian, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The only thing I have to add to that part of the question is whether or not these kinds of tumors have been observed elsewhere in the world. There are some reports from the Baltics of similar tumors on zooplankton.
With respect to the question about the sedimentation remediation and what percentage of the priority sites are, is the clean-up actually under way, I don't know the answer to that. I had pointed out some of my folks from U.S. EPA earlier today that so much of what we are doing in the Great Lakes involves sediment remediation and I really wish that we had had somebody from our Superfund program today and we don't. I would invite any of the U.S EPA folks who might know the answer to the question to take a crack at it. That is something that we'll have to check on.
Don't hold me to this but, just thinking across the U.S. side of the basin, my guess is that we're somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 - 20% range in terms of actually moving mud in specifically the Areas of Concern. There has been activity, kind of on the fringes of this, that is related to the Areas of Concern and can positively contribute to that, but actually physically moving the contaminated sediment out, I think it's in perhaps that 20% range. I think that in the next several years there is going to be a dramatic increase in that just because of the activity that has been going over these last 3 or 4 years. I think Gary Gulezian has a copy of a publication here that can provide more information, called, Realizing Remediation. It is the sequel to moving Mud that we had done earlier. This is a March 1998 that would be current as of that time.
I believe the other question that was asked related to what has been the most significant impediment to moving ahead. If I might just address that, having but engaged now for about 22 years in various battles over sediments, I think probably the number one impediment to moving ahead has been the cost associated with it and the resistance from those who would be expected to pay for it. We have had many long drawn out battles in many of these situations and that has been a real impediment. I think, secondly, the time of the examination and investigation process to make sure that it is done cost effectively, particularly in the earlier years, took longer than it should have. We are getting better at that and it is getting compressed more to really figure out where the sediment must be removed. I'd say, thirdly, finding disposal sites is a real problem as well. Many people like to see it out of the water but nobody wants it to be in the vicinity of where they are. Those are three major things that we are dealing with.
To respond to the other two questions you have Paula, the one related to job development or job creation because of activities, there is some work being done on that and some identification of it. Doug in his presentation talked about the sediment clean-up in Thunder Bay. We've done a study on that one, which indicates some 1,000 jobs province-wide has been created by that activity, by that investment of resource. Those are probably a combination of short-term and ongoing jobs, but that was the investment.
The other one is the question of the linkage between or on indicators and our ability to be able to look at the linkage between the environmental, economic and, I would say, the social. That certainly is a challenge and one that we are trying to look at because the reality is unless we can try to find things that reflect, at least the linkages to all three, we are not going to be talking about the health of this ecosystem. The degree that which we have at this point, I would refer you to the gentleman sitting right in front of you, Harvey Shear, who would probably be able to tell you a little more detail of what we have in that current suite of indicators right now and the degree to which they reflect the economic or social aspects.
Harvey Shear, Environment Canada
This report, which is our 1999 State of the Lakes Report, will be released next week. In it is the suite of 80 indicators and economic viability is one of those indicators. It is certainly not as well developed as the more physical biological indicators, but it follows on from the economic assessment that we did in the '94 State of the Lakes Conference, which was the first time I think that the Parties really undertook that sort of an initiative and branched away from the traditional environmental aspects to look at the state of the economy and how that affects environmental issues. So we will be working on economic indicators and certainly any help that you might be able to provide us would be most welcome.
Could I just respond in terms of what's been going on in Ontario in terms of dealing with some of the issues around contamination that you've raised, Paula. First of all, we have recently released this report which goes through the achievements we've made under the Canada-Ontario Agreement. In there we indicate a number of activities. First of all, we've undertaken a full assessment of 11 priority sites. We have strategies in place in six. We've had full-scale clean-ups in four of them and work is going in at the rest of the sites. In terms of the actual sites which are, what we call contaminated sites within the basin, not necessarily exactly on the Great Lakes, we have a number of activities going on. We made a number of commitments in our agreement. The federal government is currently working on 10 contaminated sites. The Ontario government has undertaken a site remediation in five orphan sites and there is a lot of other activity going on besides government. We also have 31 sites that have been completely remediated by industry in Ontario to date and a whole bunch others that are ongoing at the same time. I think in that particular regard we've made substantial progress.