Thunder Bay was designated as an Area of Concern, or “AOC” because a review of available data indicated that water quality and environmental health were severely degraded. There has been a long history of discharges into the harbour, primarily from the forest products industry (e.g., pulp and paper mills). Over the years, industrialization, navigational dredging, waste disposal, the release of pollutants, and channelization (channels made in the area for Great Lakes shipping/navigation ) adversely impacted water quality and eliminated a significant amount of fish and wildlife habitat along the waterfront which resulted in ten of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement’s 14 beneficial use indicators of ecological quality being deemed as impaired.
Chemicals of concern included:
dioxins/furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), creosote, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury
Concerns relating to the contamination have included:
restrictions on fish consumption
negative pressures on fish populations
loss of species diversity
beach advisories and loss of recreational value.
The Thunder Bay AOC study area extends approximately 28 kilometers along the shoreline of Lake Superior and up to nine kilometers offshore from the City of Thunder Bay. It also includes the Thunder Bay watershed, which is the land area drained by the Kaministiquia River system and a number of smaller rivers and creeks.
Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan History
1991 – Stage 1 Report was developed by the Thunder Bay RAP writing team comprised of Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. This report identified beneficial use impairments in the Thunder Bay AOC.
2004 – Stage 2 Report was drafted by the former Lake Superior Programs Office with the assistance of the Thunder Bay RAP team and Public Advisory Committee. Water use goals and restoration actions to achieve these goals were outlined. A number of these projects have since been completed with several of them ongoing to date.
Public Advisory Committee
The Thunder Bay RAP program is now being facilitated by Lakehead University under the supervision and guidance of Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The remedial actions undertaken and identified within the Stage 2 Report are currently in the process of being reviewed by the Thunder Bay AOC Public Advisory Committee (PAC).
The PAC is an organization comprised of members of the public, including organizations, private citizens, academia, industry, recreational groups and property owners. The involvement of the PAC in the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan has been extensive and integral to RAP success. The combination of local knowledge and community based goals with scientific data and expertise has resulted in a practicial strategy to rehabilitate the Area of Concern. PAC cooperation, understanding and stewardship have assisted the RAP since inception of the program.