Responding to Canada's National Implementation Plan Under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Consultation Draft February 2005
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) entered into force on May 17 th, 2004. Canada was the first country to sign and ratify the Convention when it was first signed at the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries in May 2001. As the first Conference of the Parties approaches, Canada is uniquely positioned to solidify its leadership role in the global community as it outlines the activities it expects to take to fulfil its obligations under the Convention. Other Parties will look to Canada's efforts as a potential model for effective action on POPs.
The development of Canada's NIP is one that will attract considerable interest from the global community. The Government of Canada has had three years to develop a NIP that would result in the elimination and reduction of POPs in the global environment. Canada's role throughout the intergovernmental negotiating process has been significant beginning with the resources it dedicated to conduct research on POPs, the involvement of various government departments in the negotiations, the inclusion of non-governmental stakeholders in the Canadian delegations to these negotiations and its financial commitment to the Convention through the Canada's POPs Fund. Hence, the expectations for Canada's NIP will be high.
In late 2003 and early 2004, pre-consultation discussions and meetings were organized by Environment Canada to discuss the scope of Canada's NIP. These sessions included participation from Health Canada, representatives from industry, environmental non- governmental organization (NGOs), aboriginal organizations, as well as some jurisdictional governments. As a result of participating in these consultations, the ENGOs submitted extensive comments on the components needed in Canada's National Implementation Plan during the pre development phase for Canada's NIP. The details of this report, entitled " An NGO Submission to Environment Canada's Consultation on Canada's National Implementation Plan under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs): Demonstrating Canada's Commitment to the Reduction and Elimination of POPs" (March 10, 2004) provide information for which the current proposals by Environment Canada on its NIP will be reviewed. The recommendations in this report remain relevant to this submission.
The comments submitted below are intended to supplement and/or expand on issues raised in the multi stakeholder consultations held on February 14 th, 2005 in Ottawa by Environment Canada on its document, "Canada's National Implementation Plan Under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants: Consultation Draft" (February 2005).
The following key elements identified in our submission of March 10, 2004 are integral to Canada's NIP and repeated in this submission. Canada's NIP should:
- be comprehensive in its approach;
- demonstrate transparency in its development;
- ensure effective public participation in all aspects of its development;
- undertake an assessment on the effectiveness of the programs and initiatives aimed at eliminating and reducing POPs;
- ensure an effective regulatory framework to support the programs and initiatives to ensure that the obligations and the spirit of the Stockholm Convention are reflected;
- require the implementation and promotion of safe substitutes and non incineration technologies for POPs;
- outline timeline for its implementation; and
- ensure that capacity and resources are available to implement all aspects of Canada's NIP.
Overall, the draft document presented by Environment Canada in February 2005 demonstrates a good start in developing Canada's NIP. However, upon careful review of the draft NIP for Canada, several elements included in ENGO submission of March 2004 were not adequately incorporated or addressed into the draft presented in February 2005. A few of the gaps identified in Canada's draft NIP include:
- weak vision for promoting a NIP that is based on elimination and prevention of POPs
- while promoting of safe alternatives and non incinerating technologies,
- the absence of an evaluation of Canada's programs on toxic substances such as POPs in particular with respect to unintentional POPs,
- lack of commitment by Environment Canada to recommend programs and/or regulations specifically designed to meet the obligations of the Stockholm Convention,
- lack of timelines and targets that are required to measure progress on implementation efforts,
- sufficient detail to outline level of public engagement and consultation at all stages implementing the Stockholm Convention, including commitment to resources for capacity building,
- a detailed process in Canada to identify and nominate additional POPs in Canada beyond the efforts to categorize Domestic Substances List under CEPA, and
- a firm commitment by Canada on additional funding directed to developing countries and countries in transition to meet the obligations of the Convention.
Without an adequate response to these issues, the draft NIP cannot guarantee that Canada will effectively meet its obligations under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
We strongly urge Environment Canada to consider the issues raised by NGOs in this submission as well as the submission of March 2004 to strengthen Canada's draft NIP in the time leading up to the First Conference of the Parties in Uruguay in May 2005 and to 2006 when Parties to the Stockholm Convention are expected to formally submit their NIP to the POPs Secretariat for review. This plan will be viewed a a global model.
Much time has been spent on talking about Canada's efforts in the Stockholm Convention to date. The level of commitment by Canada on POPsshould be heightened further now that the implementation phase is underway. Canada remains a major contributor to the levels of POPs but also a recipient of POPs from domestic and global sources. We urge Canada to develop a NIP whose goal is the ultimate elimination of POPs from the global environment. Canada's NIP should not only aim to meet the obligations of the Stockholm Convention but exceed it.
NGOs are concerned that the exercise of developing a NIP will be limited to creating an inventory of programs in Canada. During the pre-consultation discussion on the development of Canada's NIP, some stakeholders suggested that current programs and initiatives underway in Canada were sufficient to meet the obligations of the Convention. In fact, it is wholly inadequate for Canada's NIP to provide simply an inventory of current programs in Canada. The real value in Canada's NIP will be identifying the resources and the additional efforts needed for Canada to meet its obligations under the Stockholm Convention.
Timelines and Targets
Therefore, the inclusion of timelines and targets for reductions and ultimate elimination are critical elements in the NIP. It would further entrench Canada's commitment on POPs and require departments to monitor progress towards the Convention goals. In the event that the progress towards the Convention goals are slow, the presence of timelines allows for the development of contingency plan for affected sectors and an accountability mechanism for the public. Moreover, the timelines may trigger innovation among the affected industry that use, produce or release POPs.
Taking a Preventative Approach
Canada's efforts on POPs must be seen as ground-breaking. Therefore its efforts should be entrenched in Canada's pollution prevention strategy, which calls for prevention of toxic substances at the source as a key element in the strategy. This approach would promote the development and application of safe alternatives and techniques. NIP development and its eventual implementation will require adequate resources and capacity to ensure the protection of human health and environment. Such a vision for Canada's NIP is well supported by the legal text of the Convention and the intent of the Stockholm Convention obligations.
One key area in which Canada can demonstrate this vision is in the obligation to add additional POPs to the Stockholm Convention. Canada is well positioned to show leadership in this area. Through its efforts to categorize the Domestic Substances List (DSL) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), Canada is already able to identify substances that may have the POPs characteristics. It is not too premature to identify possible POPs for addition the Stockholm Convention. Similarly in the area of financial assistance, Canada can provide additional financial funding to the Canada's POPs Fund which has not been replenished since its inception.
Recommendation: Canada's NIP should not be an inventory of programs and initiatives related to POPs but should include timelines and targets to assess Canada's progress on meeting its obligations under the Stockholm Convention.
Recommendation: Canada should plan to eliminate all POPs in Canada by 2014, ten years after the Stockholm Convention entered into force.
Currently, the lack of evaluation on the programs in Canada to address toxic substance creates a significant gap in the development of Canada's NIP. There are many regulatory and non-regulatory programs focused on POPs and other toxic substances being implemented in Canada, but the public and NGOs do not have a clear understanding of the effectiveness of these programs and initiatives. NGOs and the public are asked to accept that progress on toxic substances in Canada is being made without sufficient evidence. In fact, reports from the Auditor General office and OECD suggest that Canada efforts on toxic substances in inadequate. Despite stakeholders raising this issue in previous consultations, the draft NIP does not address this matter in its current draft. The lack of information on the progress made on toxic substances is a good reason why Canadians require a NIP that includes additional information of new programs and resources that will be initiated to address POPs in Canada. The results of such an evaluation process will identify gaps in the current approach on POPs as well as help to prioritize where resources and capacity should be directed by Environment Canada as well as other affected government departments.
Recommendation: Canada's workplan in developing Canada's NIP should include an evaluation of current programs in Canada and provinces in addressing POPs specifically. Such an evaluation process should include data and case studies demonstrating success as well as a transparent process for public input.
POPs in Canada can be dealt with under several statutes. The Pest Control Product Act is the main statute to assess and manage pesticides, while CEPA is the main statute identifying, assessing and managing industrial chemicals. Further, various nonregulatory and regulatory programs control different aspects of toxic substances in Canada. The Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations under CEPA provide the legal instrument to identify potential POPs in Canada but the assessment and eventual management of these substances must follow the CEPAprescription. While the pesticides identified in the Stockholm Convention have been regulated the unintentional POPs remain a significant problem. Canada's NIP needs a strong regulatory backstop to stop the release and generation of these substances. A regulation specifically targetting the Stockholm Convention can bridge the gaps between the various statutes in Canada by providing a comprehensive framework that will include:
- How POPs will be identified and assessed in Canada;
- Articulate how Canada NIP plans to meet its obligation under the Convention;
- A process for identifying appropriate programs necessary to meet the goals of the Convention;
- Outline a mechanism for reporting and evaluating progress on POPs;
- Timelines and Targets to eliminate POPs in Canada.
This regulation would give needed authority to complete the tasks in Canada's NIP.
Recommendation: Canada should develop a POPsregulation that bridge the gaps in the existing statutes and regulations related to POPs. This regulation would give needed authority to complete the tasks in Canada's NIP.
The Transboundary Air Issues Office of Environment Canada has been given the responsibility for co-ordinating the development of Canada's NIP. However, the draft NIP suggest that its coordinating function is very limited in scope. Given the importance of this international agreement, this office does not appear to have authority required to direct or propose actions and initiatives that can add value to the Canada's efforts under POPs. In our view, the effectiveness of Canada NIP will be directly affected by the level of authority given to the government office responsible for overseeing its implementation and the capacity and resources directed to this office for the necessary activities. Unless this approach changes and the role of the office is expanded Canada's leadership on POPs may be threatened.
The creation of an inventory of programs already in place in Canada on POPs and other toxic substances is important but the added value of having the Transboundary Air Issues Branch coordinate Canada's POPs efforts is the knowledge and understanding of how the various programs fit and what new efforts are required with respects to POPs in Canada. The office is appropriately positioned in Environment Canada to make recommendations and develop programs unique to POPs in Canada.
There are several key areas where the Transboundary Air Issues office may have some influence with regards to POPs. The first is in the area of categorization of the DSL, which can already identify a several DSL substances that meet the criteria for persistence (P), bioaccumulation (B) and inherent toxicity (human and non-humans organisms) (iT).
The Existing Substances Branch offices in Environment Canada and Health Canada are responsible for categorization activities but have yet to identify the complete list of substances that meet these criteria. The Transboundary Air Issues office can identify this as the gap and require the Existing Substances Branch to provide the list of substances meeting the criteria. This office can also provide recommendations to current programs such as the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) to expand its reporting requirements to include all POPs, in particular, PCBs. In its current form, the draft NIP fails to provide details that describe how these programs can add value to addressing POPs in Canada. In these two examples, if the proposed changes were made to the programs, there would be very minimal changes but there is a significant and immediate improvement to the quality of Canada's NIP.
Recommendation: The role of the Transboundary Air Issues office should extend beyond a coordinating function for development of Canada's NIP. Its role should include both a coordinating function as well as identifying currents programs and additional programs that are required to address POPs in Canada (i.e., identifying DSL substances that meet P, B and iT criteria; expand reporting requirements under NPRI to include PCBs).
Recommendation: The office of the Transboundary Air Issues office should be given adequate resources to execute its POPs activities, coordinate with other government departments, develop programs specifically on POPs, and build capacity among government departments as well as stakeholders.
Throughout the negotiations, Canada made a commitment to include a strong public participation component. Canada's efforts to include public participation in the Canadian delegation was unique amongst the countries involved in the negotiation process. Despite its earlier efforts in late 2003 and early 2004 to engage various stakeholders through a pre-consultation advisory committee, public participation on Canada's NIP has been limited to the one workshop in February 2005.
Public participation remains a critical element of the work on POPs in Canada. The experience of stakeholders in consultations addressing various aspects of assessment and management of toxic substances in Canada (e.g., Canada-wide standards (CWS), NPRI and risk management processes) will continue to be invaluable to Environment Canada as it further develops its NIP. Environment Canada is strongly urged to seek public support and input throughout the process of developing and reviewing Canada's NIP. This type of dialogue is not only required under the Stockholm Convention but necessary if Canada is to be successful in its implementation efforts. This history of active multi-stakeholder participation must be maintained in the process of drafting Canada's NIP. Further, to ensure that public participation is effective, adequate support and resources should be secured for this purpose. The NGO submission of March 2004 recommended that a permanent public advisory committee be established to seek public participation in every aspect of developing the NIP.
Recommendation: Environment Canada is strongly urged to establish a permanent advisory body that will ensure a process for public input and engagement in Canada's efforts to implement the obligations of the Stockholm Convention. This advisory group can coordinate regular meetings/teleconferences which may complement with online consultation.
Recommendation: Adequate support and resources should be secured to effectively include public participation.
The language of the Stockholm Convention as well as Canada's own domestic legislation, CEPA 1999, provides the appropriate legal text to support the elimination of toxic substances. Further, CEPA 1999 and Canada's Pollution Prevention Strategy provide additional language to require pollution prevention planning for toxic substances. Through the Stockholm Convention, Canada has an opportunity to further these efforts. As stated earlier, the elimination of POPs and preventing the creation of POPs should be the basis for Canada's NIP and its National Action Plan (NAP) for unintentional POPs. For Canada, the NIP and NAP should clearly articulate a hierarchy that gives priority to the development and promotion of safe alternatives to POPs over control measures or end of pipe technology. To date, Canada's efforts to address POPs and other toxic substances continue to focus on control measures. The levels of detection for specific substances are based on the sensitivity of the technology. Canada can make significant contributions in promoting safe alternatives if the commitment and resources are directed to the prevention of all POPs - intentional as well as unintentional.
In the current draft of Canada's NIP and the NAP, the role of developing and promoting safe alternatives and non incinerating technologies to address POPs is weak. As stated in earlier sections of this submission, the emphasis of the NIP on providing an inventory of programs related to POPs in Canada is inadequate and does not create an environment that will elevate the importance of promoting and identifying safe alternatives to POPs of any kind in Canada.
Recommendation: Canada's NIP and NAP should include strong language on the
need to promote and develop emerging non-incineration technologies and safe techniques to address all POPs.
Many of the issues raised in the context of the NIP are relevant to the development of Canada's NAP on unintentional POPs (UPOPs). Since Canada has already taken steps to prohibit and ban the use of the POPs pesticides listed in the Stockholm Convention, it is essential that its approach to UPOPs results in the ultimate elimination of these substances. Anything less than an ultimate elimination will not guarantee protection to human health and environment from exposure to POPs.
The challenge on the UPOPs in Canada is significant. Like that of the NIP, the NAP for Canada should not simply be an inventory of existing programs but include additional action needed on UPOPs for existing and new sources. In fact, the NAP for Canada should aim to only consider those techniques and safe substitutes that do not result in the production of new POPs or other toxic substances. The main elements necessary for a comprehensive approach in developing Canada's NAP include:
- Effective public participation and transparency in all aspects of developing the NAP;
- An effective regulatory framework to support the programs and initiatives in the NAP;
- An overarching principle/objective supporting the goal of ultimate elimination of UPOPs in Canada and the prevention of the production of additional POPs;
- Requirements to implement and promote safe substitutes and non-incineration technologies for POPs;
- A process/set of criteria to be applied when assessing Best Available Techniques (BAT)/Best Environmental Practices (BEP)
- Targets and timeframes by which UPOPs will be reduced and ultimately eliminated from Canada; and
- Capacity and resources to promote the actions to be taken under Canada's NAP.
The current draft of the NAP demonstrates a good start to the process. In keeping with the elements identified as critical to Canada's NAP, the following gaps have been identified in the current draft:
- To date, no evaluation has been undertaken to assess the effectiveness of Canada's programs and initiatives to address UPOPsand identify new programs that may provide added benefits to Canada's efforts on UPOPs. Such an evaluation should include real measurements and actions taken to reduce and eliminate toxic substances;
- A critical component for Canada's NAP is the implementation of Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BET). The current draft NAP would improve significantly if Canada provided information on when and how facilities covered under the NAP are required to review BAT and BEP to their operations. Given the resources and investments by facilities to technologies, the development of safe technology and non incinerating technologies should be given priority in this approach.
- No criteria or process is described as to what would be considered BAT. Since technology is evolving, the NAP should articulate when and how new technology will be considered and required by facilities.
- Canada can and should require that the BAT be applied to all sources of UPOPs not just those listed in the Stockholm Convention. The application of BAT/BEP for new and existing sources of POPs is in appropriate. Without demanding the use of BAT for all sources, the release of UPOPs is perpetuated. It is necessary to send the appropriate signal to affected industries that innovation in the area of UPOPs is desired. This would be further enhanced if the necessary resources and investments are secured to promote the development of safe alternatives.
- There is no direction or details on how safe alternatives will be promoted and developed for UPOPs (i.e., development of product stewardships programs, safe substitutes) in Canada. Part II, p. 7 provides some information for the pulp and paper sector but much more details is required.
- There is very limited information on action to be undertaken to address PCBs in Canada, in contrast to the focus given to address dioxins and furans. Given the known health effects associated with exposure to PCB, the NAP fails to demonstrate Canada's commitment to address PCB as a by-product in a comprehensive manner. The current proposed regulations on the imports of PCB waste in Canada does not support an elimination strategy. In fact, it provides a disturbing signal that Canada is open to accepting PCB waste from other jurisdictions or exporting even for "environmentally sound management". Canada's approach for PCB wastes should rely on non-incinerating technology to manage these wastes because of potential of other toxic substances being released from these processes.
- The inventory of UPOPsin Canada lacks adequate reporting in the NPRI program. For example, NPRI does not require the reporting of PCBs in Canada. While this issue has been discussed by the NPRI Working Group without resolution, it is critical that Environment Canada proceed to add PCBs to the NPRI immediately. There are no Limits of Quantification (LOQs) specified for PCBs and Hexachlorbenzene (HCB). The NAP provides LOQs for dioxins and furans but for no LOQs for other UPOPs. Since the goal of ultimate elimination under CEPA is based on establishing LOQs, it is critical that these levels be established and incorporated in the NAP. Further, commentary in NAP should include how LOQs will be reviewed in the context of emerging and clean technology.
Recommendation: The NAP for UPOPs must contain the same elements found in the NIP to ensure that the NAP meets and exceeds the goals of the Stockholm Convention.
Recommendation: A comprehensive plan to eliminate sources of PCBs as a by product of industrial process should be included in Canada NAP.
One of the key obligations under the Stockholm Convention is the process to add POPs on the Annexes of the Convention. This is an area which provides significant opportunities for Canada to continue its efforts for highlighting POPs for consideration. The limited toxicity data available for most of the substances found on the market to date poses an obstacle in identifying such substances of concern. Canada's efforts to categorize all 23 000 substances on its Domestic Substances List (DSL) for the following criteria: persistence, bioaccumulation and inherent toxicity are innovative. By 2006, the preliminary data necessary to determine POP like characteristics will be available for many of the DSL substances. This program should enable Canada to develop a list of substances that have POP like characteristics for further consideration in the context of the Stockholm Convention. Unfortunately, the draft NIP provides weak language on this matter. It does not propose an explanation or a process on whether the list of POPs will be available to the public.
Canada's NIP can be strengthened significantly if it can provide commitment that it will identify on a separate list all substances on the DSL that meet all three criteria (i.e., persistence, bioaccumulation and inherent toxicity). Those substances meeting all three criteria should automatically be added to Schedule 1 of CEPA and appropriate risk management processes undertaken. These substances should also be nominated for consideration by the POP Review committee established under the Stockholm Convention.
Recommendation: The NIP should outline how the information gathered from its domestic processes (including the Pest Control Product Act and CEPA 1999) will be used to nominate POPs for consideration by the global community under Stockholm. Both chapter 3 and chapter 8 of the draft NIP do not adequately address this.
For new substances, it is difficult for the public to determine which of the substances requiring notification under the New Substances Notification Regulations meet the three criteria. In fact, the notification process does not explicitly require that the information on persistence and bioaccumulation and inherent toxicity be submitted for all new substances. Furthermore, the public's lack of access to information contained in the notification package make it even more difficult to ensure that Canada can adequately identify all substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative and inherently toxic. Canada is well positioned to support nomination for several POPs substances in the upcoming months. These substances include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOs). The screening level risk assessments for these substances have been completed in draft for Canada and the recommendation to add these substances to Schedule 1 indicates that they are relevant in the Canadian context. Added with the evidence being gathered by other jurisdictions, Canada's NIP should include commentary that these chemicals should be considered for nomination to the POP Review Committee in the near future.
Recommendation: Environment Canada should list all substances from categorization program meeting the criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation and inherent toxicity.
Recommendation: All substances in the DSL meeting the criteria for persistence, bioaccumlation and inherent toxicity should be added to Schedule 1 of CEPA without further assessment and appropriate risk management process followed. These substances should be nominated to the POPs Review Committee.
Recommendation: Data for persistence, bioaccumulation and inherent toxicity should be required for all new substances and pesticides to Canada. This type of information should be accessible to the public.
Recommendation: Substances such as PBDEs and PFOs should be highlighted as potential POPs for nomination to the POPs Review Committee.
Canada's initial commitment of $20 million established the Canada's POPs Fund. No further commitment has been made in this area. Given that the review of the Canada's POPs Fund has been completed, the NIP should include further details on Canada's efforts to consider a replenishment of the Canada's POPs Fund. These funds have a significant impact on developing countries' needs for implementing the Stockholm Convention.
Further, Canada should consider a POPs Fund to support domestic efforts on POPs as well. Communities in Canada working specifically to address POPs related issues would benefit from such a fund by way of capacity building.
Recommendation: Canada's NIP should include commentary on the process for replenishing the Canada's POPs Fund.
- Commentary on the National Pollutants Release Inventory (NPRI) should be strengthened to ensure that the program is expanded to include reporting on all POPs. Currently PCBs is not required for reporting under NPRI but the Stockholm Convention requires an inventory of all POPs.
- Canada should articulate what details would be included in the review of NIP and NAP and the supporting document, including an evaluation of current efforts, that will be required to support a review of the plans.
- Additional information is required and necessary to demonstrate how POPs affect vulnerable communities, in particular, children, women of child bearing age, workers, and aboriginal communities. Such information will assist policy makers design programs accordingly.
- Canadian NGOs have significant knowledge in the development of pollutant inventories, pollution prevention strategies, policy and legislative development and promoting public participation that is relevant to POPs and the Stockholm Convention. Canada has been effective in sharing its expertise and has demonstrated through this process that such information is critical on the global scale. More resources should be directed to programs in Canada that support these efforts including biomonitoring programs, evaluation process and improvements to pollutant inventories.
Recommendation: Canada should increase efforts that raise awareness on POPs, the obligations of the Stockholm Convention and the efforts that lead to the elimination of POPs. Specifically, increased efforts should be made to vulnerable communities affected by POPs such as children, workers, women and Aboriginals.
- The current draft does not provide an adequate explanation on how Canada intends to report on its progress under the NIP. The draft provides a short list of programs that will assist with this reporting requirement. The list should include all programs that will be considered in this requirement. This section will improve significantly if a baseline is established for reporting purposes that allow the public to determine if progress on POPs are being made.
- A review and evaluation of the programs identified in the NIP is a required obligation under the Stockholm Convention. These should be required every two years to ensure that any gaps in the NIP are address adequately and in a timely manner. The evaluation process should include both quantitative and qualitative data on domestic efforts and other international agreements/initiatives that are related to POPs. The evaluation process should have a strong component for public participation.
Recommendation: The reporting mechanism should include a baseline year to allow for accountability. Reports outlining the findings for reporting should be produced and available electronically.
Recommendation: The evaluation process should include both quantitative and qualitative data on domestic efforts and other international agreements/initiatives that are related to POPs. The evaluation process should have a strong component for public participation.
The draft NIP presented and discussed in the February 2005 workshop provides a good starting point for developing Canada's NIP. A number of issues and gaps have been identified in this submission which we hope will be carefully considered by Environment Canada in the upcoming months. NGOs and other stakeholders would like to ensure that the NIP that Canada submits to the POPs Secretariat by 2006 demonstrates leadership and vision for other countries to follow.
The following comments were prepared in order to provide feedback from the consultation meeting arranged by Environment Canada on Canada's proposed National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, held in Ottawa on February 14, 2005.
The opportunity to provide input to the development of the NIP is appreciated, and I hope that there will be further opportunities to offer suggestions regarding Canada's position in this matter.
The provisions on pages 52 to 55 of the text of the NIP, which deal with research and monitoring, raise a number of questions relating both to government policy and to the underlying science behind monitoring. I would like to be able to comment further on this section of the NIP when I have had the opportunity to review the subject matter.
The core list of substances identified in Annexes A and B of the Stockholm Convention are no longer registered for use in Canada (with the qualified exception of PCBs), or likely to be re-authorized in the future. This obviously strongly influences the nature of the Canadian undertaking with respect to implementation.
Canada has been instrumental in documenting the phenomena of transport and deposition of the organochlorine compounds in the Stockholm list. Attention appears to be shifting now to a suite of other organohalogen compounds which have become widely distributed in the environment, some of which are still widely used in the Canadian economy. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, used as fire retardants, and the fluorinated alkyl sulfonates provide ready and well-known examples of the kinds of compounds which are now being evaluated, and for which the distribution in the Canadian environment is now becoming apparent.
In these circumstances, it would be appropriate to find a place in the opening sections of the NIP to put some emphasis on the process for identifying and adding key compounds or substances to the existing list, and Canada's potential contribution to that objective.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) provides a statutory framework for chemicals evaluation which appears directly relevant to this aspect of the Stockholm Convention and its Implementation.
Canada, through its investment in the categorization of substances already on the Canadian market (the DSL) at the Existing Substances Branch, is contributing to this effort through its work - initially at the pilot project stage - on the evaluation of the potential of chemicals in using in Canadian manufacturing for "persistence", "toxicity" and "bioaccumulation". This also strikes me as being particularly relevant to the implementation of the Stockholm Convention, and an example where Canada, as a result of features of its domestic legislation, could well contribute at an international level to the implementation process. This is a theme which could be developed and explored explicitly in the text of the NIP.
The release to the environment of the broad class of compounds now known as UPOPs, or products of uncontrolled combustion, is a factor which is particularly relevant to Canada's role in the implementation of the Stockholm POPs Convention.
This is a subject which could be addressed in substantially greater detail in the NIP, because of its particular relevance to Canada's role in the implementation of the Convention.
The geographical distribution of small, isolated rural and northern communities - particularly in the more remote regions of the Canadian Shield/boreal forest regions, and the Canadian Arctic, means that Canada is under some obligation to consider the likelihood of a large number of sites where household and municipal waste is routinely burned as a means of waste reduction. In many cases, the limited possibilities of burial above the water table and of waste reduction through recycling and reuse make burning a routine component of waste management. In addition, however, forest fires in the boreal forest region, and the use of fire in agricultural practices on the Prairies make it necessary to consider these large-scale processes (which vary in scale, intensity and distribution from year to year) as sources of UPOPs in the same geographical regions. These sources, of course, are in addition to the use of "barrel burning" or equivalent practices by individual households at some distance from waste collection and processing facilities.
The NIP would benefit from language which acknowledges the nature of this problem and the difficulty of determining how to address these combustion sources in national inventories of releases of dioxins, furans, HCB, and dioxin-like PCBs. The pie-diagrams used in the draft NIP, in this context, create a somewhat misleading impression of certainty about the relative importance of different sources, and the use of these diagrams, if maintained, should be qualified by language which reflects the difficulties, in a Canadian setting, of assigning quantitative estimates to these sources. Perhaps it would be appropriate to acknowledge here the considerable amount of work done under the framework of the Great Lakes Bi-national Toxics programme to assess the importance of these and other sources which pose particular problems of quantitative evaluation.
Canada has a specific problem, in the case of PCBs with the legacy effects of Cold War military radar installations in the mid- and far-north. The mid-north poses a particular problem because of disputes about jurisdiction and responsibility. We benefit, in our assessment of the nature of the problem, from the considerable and accomplished work on this subject at the Royal Military College in Kingston. It would be reasonable to expect in the NIP an acknowledgement that, with respect to the cleaning up of existing contaminated sites, this is a particular Canadian challenge.
I also raised the "legacy" issue of the D/F contamination which has apparently resulted from the treatment over the years of utility poles with chlorophenol. This has received some attention in the United States, where utility poles are considered to be a major reservoir, with a total D/F content orders of magnitude greater than estimated annual release rates to the atmosphere from other sources. Canada shares (geographically) a similar reliance on utility poles, and it may be appropriate to consider in the NIP how this matter is being addressed. The issue, as I understand it, is that as long as they remain in use, utility poles do not release D/F's to the environment in significant amounts - but the question will remain - under what circumstances (e.g. unintentional combustion) could release take place, and at what rate?
Finally, I think it is important not to lose sight of the "reservoir" implications of the deposition of D/F's to soils, including forest podzols and agricultural soils, and the potential importance of their mobilization and transport to the aquatic environment in the course of normal run-off processes and soil erosion. These are factors which are very difficult to evaluate quantitatively at the moment, but may dominate transport to aquatic ecosystems in Canada. Given the nature of the Canadian landscape, it would be appropriate to acknowledge the potential importance of this form of reservoir, and the processes of long-term releases from storage. It is perhaps also worth mentioning that this phenomenon of storage and slow release is also relevant to other contaminants for which atmospheric transport and deposition is an important component of geochemical cycling - notably mercury.
Canada has had the benefit of some highly skilled work in the development of sampling and analytical techniques for tracking trace contaminants in the environment (both Meterological Services Canada and the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW) are widey recognized for their expertise in this area), and related quality control procedures. This work, though, has also made us aware of the need for rigorous attention to sampling methods, analytical technique, and, in particular, instrumentation. An important example here is the combination of high-resolution HC and high-resolution MS as a pre-requisite for high caliber congener-specific analyses of dioxins, furans and dioxin like PCBs, and the sophisticated equipment needed for atmospheric sampling.
The NIPcould usefully include an acknowledgement of the analytical issues involved when working with different environmental media and matrices, and of the potential for Canada to contribute to capacity-building in the areas of sampling and analysis for the purposes of implementing the Stockholm Convention.
The development of the Stockholm Convention was driven in the first instance by concern about human (and wildlife) exposure to persistent organochlorine pollutants, and particular attention was directed to dioxins and furans because of the extremely small quantities associated with carcinogenicity, and with the potential for genotoxicity. In the case of the dioxins and furans, there has been real concern that levels of exposure, in some countries and some populations, are uncomfortable close to levels calculated to be associated with unacceptable risks of excess mortality from cancer or diseases associated with genotoxicity. These toxicological issues are far from settled, but they have been a major driver for research on sources of exposure, pharmacokinetics, and the evolution of body burdens over time, in the United States population in particular.
In these circumstances, and in the context of the drafting of the NIP, it would be appropriate to include in the text - perhaps in the opening sections - some material on what is known or suspected about patterns of Canadian exposure and the sources of that exposure. The U.S.A.assessment for dioxins and furans suggests, in this context, the importance of understanding the geographical distribution of the agricultural production of the presumed major dietary sources of exposure (i.e. beef, poultry and dairy products). Perhaps it will be found that there is very limited information available from strictly Canadian sources. However, the draft EPA assessment for dioxins and furans is a major source of information, and some of that information is relevant or applicable to a Canadian setting. Background information on probable patterns of human exposure, and some discussion on the risks associated with that exposure, would provide helpful context. The reference here is primarily to exposure to dioxins and furans, but the comment is more generally applicable to the substances in Annexes A and B, as well as to the UPOPs.
Following on from the previous point, it would be appropriate for the NIP to include text which explains the nature of existing and planned Canadian policies for monitoring concentrations of the Stockholm Convention pollutants in the Canadian food supply as well as exposure patterns in the Canadian population.
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should be in a position to provide the relevant information on current and planned policies both for tracking human exposure, and for evaluating the distribution of the relevant POPs in the major sources of food in the Canadian diet. This would appear to be an important aspect of tracking the implementation of the Stockholm Convention, and therefore the ongoing evaluation of the significance of human exposure in the Canadian context of exposure to the suite of chemicals currently covered by the Convention.
Since aboriginal and Inuit communities, with local food production systems based on marine, as well as freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, have been considered to be especially at risk to exposure to the compounds targeted by the Stockholm Convention, it would be relevant in this context to include in the NIP specific information on policies directed at monitoring exposure in these populations which have been identified as vulnerable, and to explain what is intended for the tracking of routes of exposure i.e. the major wildlife components of the diet of these populations, as well as dietary sources associated with large-scale food production and distribution systems. This topic is developed in more detail in the following section.
If the NIP is to incorporate a mechanism for periodic (e.g. 5-year) review of progress in implementation, provision could be made in the NIP for assessing the status of knowledge about sources of exposure in the Canadian population at large as well as populations which have been considered "vulnerable" because of the nature of their local food production systems. At the same time, this is an opportunity to review what is known about levels of exposure in the Canadian population, and in "vulnerable" groups within the larger population.
Aboriginal communities or First Nations, as noted above, have been identified as populations which are potentially vulnerable to exposure to POPs, at least in part because of the continuing importance to many such communities of local or subsistence food production systems. However, we currently have very limited information on dietary sources of D/F's general and POPs in particular from local food production systems and this is clearly an information gap of some importance. The situation is somewhat better in the regions covered by the Northern Contaminants Programme, but there are many sub-arctic communities (in the boreal forest regions of the Canadian Shield) for whom we have essentially no information. This is a serious information gap, and one which might well be addressed in the framework of the National Implementation Plan for Canada. It might be added that our knowledge of the food production systems themselves is quite fragmentary. It may be that as northern or remote communities become increasingly linked to North American food production and distribution systems, their primary sources of exposure may be converging with those of the rest of the Canadian population. We may, in effect, conclude that the relevant information is not being sought or tracked, and that we simply do not have answers to these questions.
The investigation of barrel burning in the United States and the further work on this subject in the framework of the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy is of particular relevance to aboriginal governments in Canada. This is a waste management practice which in moderately densely population regions, is amenable to attack through alternative waste management practices, but which is not so straightforward to address in more remote communities.
Further north, in Canada, attention must be paid to in-trench disposal and the use of burning to reduce the volume and mass of domestic/municipal waste. (The term "in-trench disposal" - a translation from the equivalent French expression - is used here because of the technical connotations of the expression "landfill".) Landfill operations (in Québec, at least) tend to serve substantial populations - 20,000 or more - and involve the application of relatively sophisticated criteria for siting and management. In-trench disposal is much more informal - indeed has often been seen as not very different from open dumps - and is very widespread in the Canadian setting. Standards for siting and for operation may be tightened (as currently planned in Québec), but for remote communities, this waste management practice is expected to continue.
There is very little published information on this subject; a case can be made that INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) should be brought into the picture and asked to contribute what it knows about waste management practices in the communities where it funds to the opening of sites and their operation. Government agencies which oversee municipal operations in the northern or remote regions of the Provinces also can contribute substantially to this analysis.
A comprehensive survey of site conditions faced by individual communities (geological settings, among other things) would greatly help. Generalizations are always difficult, and especially so in the absence of survey data. In the case of aboriginal communities (including many non-native or Métis settlements) we are dealing with some thousand or so small settlements, with a few hundred ranging to a few thousand inhabitants, producing all told a million or to metric tones annually of municipal waste, much of which is ordinarily burned before burial or disposal. However, we need a much stronger information base, and the orders-of-magnitude in this note are obviously subject to review and correction.
Communities burn garbage as a primary waste reduction practice. In my experience, young and growing communities are using a substantial amount of (somewhat paradoxically) scarce land for in-trench disposal purposes - more or less on the same scale as community expansion in the last thirty years or so. Scarcity, in this context, is strongly related to road accessibility and to local geological settings. Such a rate of land use is probably not sustainable in the long term, and many communities are probably running out of suitable areas for in-trench burial, but are simply not in a financial position to resort to full-scale landfill practices (or to alternative and more specialized technologies, such as incineration).
It is relevant to note here that there is some doubt about what aboriginal communities can do within their jurisdiction. The Cree communities in Québec benefit from self-governing powers under the Cree and Naskapi Act. But what precisely does this mean for these communities? What can they, or should they, be doing in relation to provincial regulation? What about the much larger number of communities operating under the Indian Act, legislation which surely was not designed with such matters in mind, and which badly needs re-thinking in the light of the environmental challenges faced by First Nations across the country? These are all aspects of a waste management strategy which I see as being directly relevant to the NIP, and as meriting extensive and transparent discussion.
The reference in the preceding section was to aboriginal or First Nations communities across the north - in the sub-arctic regions as well as in the fully arctic, permafrost dominated landscapes beyond the continuous boreal spruce forests.
However, the concerns raised could be generalized to small, isolated, rural and remote communities across the Canadian landscape.
It appears to me that the implementation of the Stockholm Convention provides a much needed pretext for a fresh examination of Canadian policy towards waste or residuals management in a broad sense for small communities which face the economic obstacles of distance and isolation. This is not the place to go into detail, but there is a needed for a concerted review of regulatory policy, at a provincial and at a territorial level, and a case for taking a much more focused look at possibilities for waste reduction, recycling and alternative forms of disposal. Much work remains to be done, and I would make the case that the work is directly relevant to the NIP.
The final recommendation in this note is that the NIP should make provision for a critical appraisal of existing Canadian inventories and release estimates. It is also appropriate to make provision for periodic review of the inventories, the assumptions on which they are based, and the emission factors employed. During the meeting, I noted the relevance of a critical evaluation of inventories in other countries, including the TRI in the United States, and to the importance of being able to identify and discuss key differences between the data bases in different countries.
This observation could be generalized and extended to the broader issues of data collection and reporting in connection with the implementation of the Stockholm Convention. It is most important that it be possible to make informed comparisons between the data supplied by different national parties to the Convention. It would be helpful to see in the NIP some language which addresses this issue and commits Canada to examining periodically and the nature of its own data collection activities, and the relationship between those activities and the undertakings of other national parties to the Convention.
February 28, 2005
Mission : We are an agriculture producer organization dedicated to the advancement of New Brunswick Farm Families through Education, Awareness, Communication and Advocacy.
Date: April 1 st, 2005
Fe de Leon, Researcher CELA
Re: Comments to Stockholm Convention, CEPA 1999 & Rotterdam Convention
We have been in touch a couple of times throughout the last year relating to the POPs Consultations, CEPA Review and Rotterdam Convention. To be honest, I am still a bit confused, although I like the Response Paper you e-mailed today and will sign on. But I still have a few comments; I just don't know how useful they are, and if they could be included in any feedback. Part of that feedback was already mentioned in my letter from last year (file attached).
POPs& Rotterdam Conventions are both international (binding) agreements, and both came into force in 2003 and 2004, if I understand this correctly.
Yet, major countries, e.g. U.K. and USA signed the agreements (as of March 2004), but never ratified it (U.K. ratified the POPs agreement Jan. 2005, The U.S.A.hasn't ratified any of it yet), which does not make sense.
- If both conventions came already into force, what obligations exist (if any) for parties which have not yet ratified those (and most likely will not in the future - as the U.S.A.), and are there any existing monitoring measures in place, who ratifies and who's not - what happens with those countries???
- How are those conventions "linked to CEPA 1999", other than requiring national implementation plans, especially, when there are so many reviews currently underway and separate processes happening, which have almost no or very little coordination with each other.
- And last, but not least, our old concern is back in terms of jurisdiction. Do these agreements apply also to all military (DND) jurisdictions within their respective countries. yes or no?? I read somewhere that there is an exemption for "chemical weapons", for example. There shouldn't be any exemptions at all, at least not in my book or our organizations.
Let me know what you think. As I said before, I'm not sure how relevant this is and should I copy this to the respective Canadian offices from those conventions.
Thanks, and be in touch, Gabrielle K.
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