December 20, 1999
International Joint Commission
Recommends Actions on
Restoration Activities for Hamilton Harbour
The International Joint Commission (IJC) today announces findings and recommendations from its
assessment of federal, state and provincial governments' activities toward Hamilton Harbour restoration.
The assessment notes successes and opportunities to overcome obstacles in the ongoing effort to restore
and protect the Harbour under the Remedial Action Plan (RAP).
The status assessment evaluates ongoing remediation by the responsible governments and is not an
environmental audit of current conditions in Hamilton Harbour. The Ontario Ministry of Environment
and Environment Canada have primary responsibility for the Hamilton Harbour RAP. Commissioners
met with local citizens, representatives of government agencies, industries, local municipalities, non-governmental organizations and the media to collect information during the assessment.
The IJC's findings of notable successes in the Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern include:
- The Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth has completed, at a cost of $48 million, five
combined sewer overflow (CSO) tanks designed to control the release of untreated waste. These
projects, the first of 14 or so proposed tanks/tunnels, have resulted in noticeable reductions of the
release of untreated sewage, on the order of 45% reduction from CSO's region-wide. In some
locations, CSO volumes have been reduced by 90%. These improvements have reduced
bacterial and phosphorus loadings to Hamilton Harbour.
- Implementation of the Municipal-Industrial Strategy for Abatement has contributed to
improvements of effluent quality.
- The Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC) has provided an extraordinary level of input in
support of remedial action plan implementation. The BARC has made a concerted effort to raise
funds locally, but with limited results.
- Local elected officials have provided a considerable level of attention and effort to remedial
action plan activities.
- Previous Federal staffing and expenditure levels appear to have benefitted the restoration efforts.
- To date, restoration of habitat conditions within Cootes Paradise appears to have been very
successful with re-establishment of submergent vegetation in 1997.
- Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Environment in cooperation with Stelco are
taking steps toward addressing the more polluted sediment in the Randle Reef area of Hamilton
- BARC's annual publication of "Toward Safe Harbours" and the 1998 Status Report by the
Remedial Action Planning Office have provided a realistic estimation of progress toward
remediation and recommendations for further activities.
The IJC's findings noted obstacles to the timely restoration of Hamilton Harbour including:
- Expected Reductions in Funding for Remediation and Yet-to-be Quantified Needs.
The IJC recommends that the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada
explicitly recognize that anticipation of future funding needs is an important planning element to
be developed for contaminated sediment in Hamilton Harbour AOC, and develop, in
coordination with BAIT and BARC, a list of possible future actions and cost estimates for these
- Ensuring Optimal Public Consultation and Public Outreach.
Action should be taken to ensure that as information regarding environmental conditions,
including pollutant releases and recommended remedial actions, becomes available, and is shared
with BARC and the general public in a manner such that early feedback is encouraged and
adequate consultation is achieved.
- Uncertain Future Funding for the Bay Area Restoration Council.
The IJC recommends that funding cutoffs to organizations, such as BARC, be avoided due to the
high ratio of volunteer effort to agency funding and the advantage in supporting this type of
activity. In any event, adequate notice and consultation should occur prior to adverse actions of
this nature in order to minimize discontinuity of effort.
The Hamilton Harbour AOC has benefitted from a substantial level of financial support from federal,
provincial and local governments, however funding has become more limited and decisions regarding the
cleanup of contaminated sediment in the Harbour remain to be made. Care should be taken to ensure
remedial actions are properly phased so that unnecessary environmental risks including those to human
health do not occur.
The United States and Canada, in cooperation with state and provincial governments, agreed to develop
and implement RAPs in a 1987 protocol to the Agreement. A RAP is to embody a systematic and
comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses in its respective Area of
Concern. There are currently 42 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin.
The IJC is a binational Canada-United States organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of
1909. The treaty recognizes that each country is affected by the other's actions in the lake and river
systems along their common border. The IJC's primary purpose is to prevent and resolve disputes
concerning these shared waters. Under the 1987 Protocol, the IJC is to review and comment on RAPs
during each of the three stages of development. The IJC initiated status assessments to examine progress
in specific Areas of Concern and open lake waters. The Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern is the third
such evaluation. The full text of this status assessment is available on the Internet at www.ijc.org(.)