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MEDIA RELEASE

March 21, 2001

International Joint Commission Begins Environmental Status Assessment of the St. Lawrence River and Schedules Public Meeting

The International Joint Commission (IJC) is beginning an assessment of government efforts to restore and protect the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern (AOC). To initiate this assessment, the IJC has scheduled a public meeting on Wednesday, March 28, 2001, from 6:30 - 9 p.m. at the Best Western Parkway Inn and Conference Centre, 1515 Vincent Massey Drive, Cornwall, Ontario. The purpose of the meeting is to receive information from the various Canadian and U.S. agencies on the efforts that are being made in both countries to clean up the river and to hear the comments of the public.

The United States and Canada, in cooperation with state and provincial governments, agreed to develop and implement Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for 42 identified Areas of Concern, such as the St. Lawrence River, where pollution problems have degraded the waterway. Each RAP is to embody a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses in its respective Area of Concern. In the St. Lawrence River Area, each country has developed a RAP for its portion of the River.

The IJC's status assessment is not an environmental audit, but an assessment of the ongoing efforts of the responsible governments and organizations toward cleaning up the river. It will examine progress toward restoration and protection of beneficial uses as listed under Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; assess program implementation relative to remedial and preventive actions; and identify and make recommendations on specific activities that could be taken to overcome obstacles and make measurable progress in restoring uses of the river.

The IJC was established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty of the United States and Canada. The treaty recognizes that each country is affected by the other's actions in the lake and river systems along their common border. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement the two countries have committed to work together and the IJC is called on to review and comment on the progress of programs, such as RAPs, developed to restore and protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Additional consultations will take place later this year to follow up on information received at the public meeting. In addition, the IJC will be hosting a Public Forum on Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Water Quality in Montréal on September 14-15, 2001. This meeting will host workshops addressing many issues impacting Areas of Concern, such as a full day workshop specifically dealing with RAP issues; the deposition of mercury from the air to our water; and community health impacts from pollution in Areas of Concern. Additional information can be obtained on the IJC website at www.ijc.org.

Contacts:
Jennifer Day Great Lakes Regional Office (519) 257-6735
Frank Bevacqua Washington, D.C. (202) 736-9024
Fabien Lengellé Ottawa, Ontario (613) 995-0088

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