Environment Canada

Environment Canada
Government of Canada

Government of Canada

September 20, 2005 11:00 ET

Environment Canada: Successful Remediation of Thunder Bay Harbour Contaminated Sediment Site

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 20, 2005) - MP Joe Comuzzi, on behalf of the Honourable Stephane Dion, Minister of the Environment; MPP Michael Gravelle, on behalf of the Honourable Laurel Broten, Ontario Environment Minister; and industry representatives announced today the completion of a $20 million cleanup of contaminated sediment around the Northern Wood Preservers' site in Thunder Bay, Ontario. This site, where wood preserving activities took place for more than 60 years, was one of the most contaminated sediment sites in Canada.

"The restoration and protection of the Great Lakes Ecosystem is a high priority for the Government of Canada and part of Project Green, our policy for environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness", said Mr. Comuzzi,. "Our government remains dedicated to ensuring a healthy Great Lakes environment and to working domestically and with the United States to protect the Great Lakes. The successful competition of this project in Thunder Bay is an example of our dedication and commitment."

"This project demonstrates our government's commitment to protecting the Great Lakes system", said Mr. Gravellle. "It is important to balance growth and economic strength with the need to protect Ontario's sensitive environment. I commend all the partners involved in this project for their hard work and dedication to Thunder Bay Harbour."

The cleanup of the site was possible through the combined efforts of Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., Northern Wood Preservers Inc. and Canadian National Railway Company.

"This project is an example of the type of collaboration of which we are extremely proud", said Francine Dorion, Vice-President of Environment and Sustainability at Abitibi-Consolidated. "By being able to draw upon the diverse skills and technical abilities of our member parties, the team was able to bring a complex environmental project to completion. We all learned and the Great Lakes environment benefited. It was a powerful example of how synergy can be created through commitment, perseverance, goodwill, knowledge and effort."

This project, referred to as the Northern Wood Preservers Alternative Remediation Concept (NOWPARC), isolated the contaminant source, cleaned up the contaminated sediment, and enhanced fish habitat. Long-term monitoring of the sediment and fish habitat is ongoing to track the continued recovery of the harbour.

Sediment contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorophenols, dioxins and furans around Northern Wood Preservers contributed to the Thunder Bay Harbour being designated as an Area of Concern in 1985 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Governments, industry and the public have since joined to develop a Remedial Action Plan that identified water use goals and initiatives for the remediation of the harbour.

For details regarding the NOWPARC project, refer to the "NOWPARC Sediment Remediation Project" booklet. To learn more about Canadian Remedial Action Plans for the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, visit www.on.ec.gc.ca/water/raps. To learn more about the Canada-Ontario Agreement respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA), visit www.on.ec.gc.ca/coa. To learn more about the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, visit www.on.ec.gc.ca/greatlakes.

Related Document: Creation of the Northern Wood Preservers Alternative Remediation Concept (NOWPARC) - Backgrounder



In 1972, Canada and the United States signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, committing to control pollution in the Great Lakes and cleaning up waste waters from industries and communities.

In 1985, review of sediment contamination around the Northern Wood Preservers' (NWP) site located in the Thunder Bay Harbour contributed to the identification of Thunder Bay Harbour as an Area of Concern (AOC). An AOC is a location within the Great Lakes basin having experienced environmental degradation.

The NWP site was contaminated as a result of wood preserving operations which took place at the site over a 60 year period. Site studies and surveys identified elevated levels of creosote contaminated sediment, containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorophenols, dioxins and furans at the NWP site. These contaminants affected the harbour water quality, biological community structures and sediment quality.

To remove Thunder Bay Harbour from Canada's list of AOCs, government agencies, industry and the public joined together to develop a Remedial Action Plan (RAP), which identified water use goals and initiatives for the remediation of the harbour. Remediation of the contaminated sediment around the NWP site was a key component of this plan.

A Public Advisory Committee was also formed to assist in setting water-use goals for the harbour. These goals are:

- provide for a wide variety of beneficial uses of the water and waterfront areas;

- virtually eliminate persistent toxic substances such as benzo(a)pyrene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;

- rehabilitate fish and wildlife habitat destroyed or damaged as a result of confinement of sediment;

- provide a habitat hospitable to aquatic organisms by enhancing the chemical conditions of the water and the sediments, including levels of dissolved oxygen in them; and

- provide a hospitable benthic environment for aquatic organisms so as not to contribute to the bioaccumulation of contaminants in the food chain.

In 1995, Environment Canada (EC) and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), undertook a risk assessment study to determine the most appropriate remedial option for dealing with the contaminants. Based on the results of this assessment a remedial strategy was identified for the three zones that needed remediation:

- Zones 1 and 2: Dredge and treat approximately 11,000 cubic metres (m3) of highly contaminated sediment;

- Zone 3A: Contain approximately 21,000 m3 of contaminated sediment inside the rockfill containment berm (RCB) and cap it with clean fill to isolate this sediment from the aquatic environment; and

- Zone 3B: Leave approximately 28,000 m3 of marginally contaminated sediment outside the RCB to recover naturally.

Following the risk assessment study, Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. (ACI), Northern Wood Preservers Inc., and Canadian National Railway Co. submitted the Northern Wood Preservers Alternative Remediation Concept (NOWPARC) proposal to MOE and EC to jointly fund the remediation of the contaminated sediment in the NWP site. In addition to funding provided by the other partners, both federal and provincial governments committed to partially fund the following:

- isolate the contaminant source;

- remove, treat and contain the contaminated sediment; and

- enhance fish habitat.

The acceptance of the NOWPARC proposal led to a five-party agreement in 1997, which provided funding for the sediment remediation project, with ACI as the project management lead.

Remediation activities under the NOWPARC project began in 1997 and were completed in 2004, marking the successful cleanup of one of the most contaminated sites in Canada. The sediment contamination at the NWP site was a key component to be addressed in the RAP for the Thunder Bay Harbour. Completion of this remedial work is a major step forward in addressing local water quality issues and to removing the Thunder Bay Harbour from Canada's AOC list.

(Egalement offert en francais)

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of the Environment
    Andre Lamarre
    Director of Communications
    (819) 997-1441
    Environment Canada
    Jack Saunders
    Communications Advisor/Media Relations
    (416) 739-4785
    Ontario Ministry of the Environment
    John Steele
    Communications Branch
    (416) 314-6666
    Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.
    Lorne Gorber
    Director, Investor Relations and Financial Communications
    (514) 394-2360