1999 GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY FORUM
SEPTEMBER 24-26, 1999
LIGHTLY EDITED, VERBATIM TRANSCRIPT
SATURDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 25
INTERNATIONAL AIR QUALITY ADVISORY BOARD
Accompanying visuals: International Air Quality Advisory Board
Gary Foley, United States Co-chair, International Air Quality Advisory Board
My Canadian co-chair is here but our workshop starts at 1:30 p.m. and so he is off at the room of the workshop getting that one ready to start.
I guess we have probably one of the more important messages to deliver at this meeting. You've heard through quite a number of the presentations by governments and by the other boards that the air pathway is very important, that the air pathway is going to become more and more critical as we try to deal with the toxics in the lakes. Well, that air pathway is the responsibility of this board and I feel we've got some really good news to tell everybody, in terms of what we've been doing and what we think that the jurisdictions can do from here on out.
But first, let me tell you a little bit about the air quality board. We've been in existence for quite a while. We provide advice to the Commissioners on quite a myriad of issues across the entire length of the border. We get into other issues besides the Great Lakes. Our membership consists of a number of people from federal agencies, from state and provincial governments, and from universities, academia. Many of the members on the board are involved in research or research management. Some of them are involved in air pollution policy. We have a nice mix, and that is very much, I think, to our benefit. I, for example, am a research manager as is my co-chair, Don McKay.
The work of the Board that we do covers quite a myriad of activities, as I pointed out. We received a very specific charge in the IJC report, The IJC in the 21st Century, which came out a couple of years ago, to look at a number of things. The trans-boundary flow of the persistent toxic substances was one of the four major areas, but we also get into issues involving PM, ozone, climate, nitrogen species. We look at monitoring and surveillance, and we try to bring all of these together in an integrated piece. We did a special report on air pollution for the Commissioners a little over a year ago and that's available on our website, as is the work that we are doing on persistent toxic substances.
Now let me get on to the work that we are doing for the Great Lakes, the priority work. About four years ago the Commissioners asked the air quality board to work together with the Water Quality Board to look at the air pathway. Basically they were saying can you from the information that is out there tell us where the major source regions are for these persistent toxic substances? Can you tell us how much of these are reaching the Great Lakes? I am going to show you that today we can tell you that for some of the substances. We have the data, we have the methodology and we are going to be demonstrating that in our workshop. Then they asked us, we've had Annex 15 for quite a while and we know that the jurisdictions, the governments are doing things. We know that there are voluntary programs and industry is working on it, but can your really tell us what the progress is on all of this? And so, we've been looking at that.
Let me move on to the first area. Where are the source regions? We found that for certain of the persistent toxic substances, and the one we have to demonstrate principally at this meeting, are dioxins and furans. There has been a lot of work on emission inventories, both in the U.S. and Canada. These emission inventories are done on a county-by-county basis and so you can look at and see where the major sources of dioxin and furan emissions are across the United States and Canada. This data is available, it's not perfect, but we think it's pretty good considering that five or six years ago we had absolutely nothing to work with. Okay, here we now know what counties have the major sources. We know what those sources are in the counties.
The question is, can you now tell us, how much of this is really reaching the lakes? Well, the science of modelling has also advanced over the years and we felt we could put that modelling together, use what we call a trajectory model. This is one that looks at how air parcels move with the weather and the winds from the source region to the Great Lakes. We could put together that kind of a model for dioxins and furans, and look at this 1995-1996 case and see how much is going to the lakes.
This is an example that we put together for Lake Superior. It has all the counties there, but now it is telling us how much of that county's emissions are actually being deposited in the lakes. As you would expect, most of the counties with the high levels are closer to the lakes, but not all of them. You could look down in Florida and see a county down there that is coloured red, which means that it is contributing a substantial amount during this period of time to the lakes. You find some things that you might not expect, but you are getting now an understanding of what's occurring from close-in sources and what's occurring from far-out sources.
This is a tool, this is a guide to policy makers. This sort of gives them places to start looking if they want to start dealing with the air pathway. Models are only as good as the information you put into them. You use monitoring data to confirm the results. We've compared these results with monitoring data. We wish we had more monitoring data. But we now have a tool. When you produce these results you need to use other methods to confirm that what you're getting here is accurate, but it's a tool for policy makers to start using, to look and see how to reduce the air pathway.
We could take and do the same results for Lake Ontario. The scale is different, that is why you don't see as much of the shading. For Lake Ontario, the sources close in play much more of a role than the sources far out, where for Lake Superior because there is lower deposition there is a larger myriad of sources.
We could also look at all of the lakes and try to estimate how much is coming from sources that are located within the watershed and sources that are located outside the watershed. In our workshop we'll be doing different analyses of this type to talk about this.
In our work we weren't able account for the amount of emissions that actually come out of the lakes and then are deposited back into the lakes. This is still a big unknown and we are weak on understanding what the role of urban plumes are on the lakes, but in terms of identifying sources and source regions that are far from the lakes, we think that we now have something that gives policy makers a tool to do that.
The final thing, we produced a compilation of all of the actions, all of the programs, all of the regulatory programs, voluntary programs, all of these things that people in the various jurisdictions are using to try to control the persistent toxic substances moving through the air pathway. We found that there is a large amount of programs. Very few of them are reflected in the '95-96 inventory. Many of them are going into place now as we speak.
We found that, even though we could identify a lot of things happening, we really don't have the ability at this time to quantify whether it's going to take care of 90% of the problem or 50% of the problem or 20% of the problem. That is another thing that we want to talk about in our workshop this afternoon. How do we actually quantify the progress that is being made because you can get a lot of information on the different programs and some them even have their expectations, but how do you quantify what actually is going to be happening. We feel that with our demonstration of our modelling tool we have really made some great strides to show the jurisdictions that you can do more, that is the research nature of our board. We like get in there and prove that things can be done, but we still have things that we can't figure out, that we can't estimate. We have challenges yet to deal with. If you're interested in more of this, come to our workshop. It's starting about now and I look forward to seeing there. Thank you.