Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

March 18, 2005 16:50 ET

Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Letter to the Editor



MARCH 18, 2005 - 16:50 ET

Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Letter to the Editor

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 18, 2005) - Media coverage in
recent days has suggested that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) may be
in violation of anti-pollution laws by discharging laboratory waste into
two East Coast harbours.

Allow us to state unequivocally that DFO is not in contravention of the
Fisheries Act, and to shed light on a few specific issues raised in the

Excess laboratory waste - whether at the Bedford Institute of
Oceanography in Halifax or the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in
St. John's - is processed in accordance with accepted hazardous waste
disposal protocols.

In 2000 and 2003, audits found potential violations of federal
regulatory standards of waste disposal at our research centres in St.
John's and Dartmouth.

However, follow up studies by professional environmental experts hired
by DFO showed that all waste discharge from the two facilities was
within federal regulatory standards, including those of the Fisheries
Act. As well, studies showed that soil at the Bedford Institute
similarly met federal regulatory standards.

Moreover, action has been taken at the two facilities to prevent
potential problems from occurring in the future.

Let us explain in a bit more detail.

In Halifax, BIO has a well-defined hazardous material disposal program
which ensures that these materials are disposed of through accepted
protocols by licensed environmental contractors. Waste water leaving
the Bedford Institute may contain trace amounts of hydrochloric,
sulphuric and other acids captured in the equipment-cleaning process;
however, this waste water is pumped through a dilution pit, where it is
further diluted with storm water. Any remaining traces of acids exist
only in amounts well within the Canadian Council of the Ministers of
Environment (CCME) Water Quality Guidelines as they enter the harbour.

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre (NAFC) in St. John's has had an
operational wastewater treatment system in place since its construction
in 1978 which, until 2004, discharged treated water directly into Quidi
Vidi Harbour. In 2002, a study of the discharged water found all
discharges fell within CCME Water Quality Guidelines, as well as the
Province of Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Control Water and
Sewage Regulations.

In July 2004, the wastewater treatment system at NAFC was upgraded and
no longer discharges into Quidi Vidi harbour; rather, it connects to the
City of St. John's Sewage System. This system is electronically
monitored to ensure acceptable Ph levels are being maintained to meet
the City of St. John's water quality standards.

All of the department's extensive environmental site assessment
information indicates that soil in the vicinity of the sewage system or
at any other location at BIO meets all federal regulatory standards. In
2003, an Environmental Site Assessment completed at the Northwest
Atlantic Fisheries Centre did not identify any laboratory waste
contamination of the soil in the vicinity of the wastewater treatment

Although the audit identified storage of hazardous materials as a
potential issue, the department has completed remedial action to address
identified deficiencies.

At DFO, we take our environmental responsibilities seriously, which is
why we do environmental audits of our operations. Since 2000, the
department has spent $40 million on environmental management within DFO.

While considering the size and complexity of departmental operations,
increasing stringent regulatory requirements, and resource constraints,
the department has been able to address some of its environmental
compliance issues. By asking ourselves tough questions through audits,
systematic monitoring, regular reporting and assessing priority areas,
we can better respond to the most pressing priorities and develop more
effective plans to achieve what is needed over the longer term. We have
made progress and remain committed to ensuring compliance throughout the

Thank you.

Neil A. Bellefontaine,

Regional Director General, Maritimes Region

James W. Baird

A/Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador Region


Contact Information

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Phil Jenkins
    Media Relations
    (613) 990-7537
    Internet :