Disposal at sea: environmental monitoring of disposal sites

Conducting monitoring studies

The Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) Disposal at Sea Program conducts monitoring studies of the environmental conditions at representative disposal sites each year.

Monitoring can include measuring changes to the following:

  • seabed
  • chemicals within the seabed
  • plants and animals that live on or in the seabed.

Environmental monitoring studies can look at:

  • impacts
  • trends
  • movement
  • compliance
  • cumulative effects
  • long term sustainability of site use.

This information is used both for managing the specific disposal site, and feeds back into the decision-making and information requirements for permit applications.

Role of monitoring

Disposal site monitoring allows permittees continued access to suitable disposal sites by helping to ensure that the permit conditions are met, and conditions were adequate to protect the marine environment and human health. It verifies that assumptions made during the permit review and site selection process were correct, and allows the government to continually review the overall adequacy of controls. Information compiled nationally and regionally over time provides the basis to assess whether the disposal at sea regulatory controls, guidelines and permit conditions are adequate to protect the marine environment and human health.

Experience gained with monitoring may also point to the need for research to develop better monitoring tools, or to refine the monitoring program, on specific environmental, health or public concerns. It is also expected that monitoring will uncover gaps in our understanding of impacts, particularly in the area of cause and effect relationships.

Conducting a disposal site monitoring study

Monitoring a disposal at sea site involves an assessment of its physical, chemical and biological features. Physical monitoring relates to the collection of information necessary for determining the area of deposition (delineating the disposal site boundaries). Employing new technology allows better and more detailed study of the accumulation of dredged material within the designated area of disposal, and studying and documenting evidence of sediment transport from the disposal site.

Biological and chemical assessments may be carried out separately or concurrently, and the monitoring design takes into account the size and dispersal characteristics of the site. Chemical monitoring is aimed at measuring the concentrations of selected organic and inorganic contaminants in sediments. Biological monitoring can involve toxicity testing of collected sediments using ECCC standardized toxicity tests and benthic community surveys.

Guidelines and guidance

In 1998, the National Guidelines for Monitoring Dredged and Excavated Material at Ocean Disposal Sites were finalized by the Disposal at Sea Program. These guidelines incorporate a tiered approach to physical, chemical, biological testing and data interpretation.

To support the National Guidelines, 2 technical guidance documents are available. The Technical Guidance for Physical Monitoring at Ocean Disposal Sites provides detailed information on geological surveying methods and sediment transport models. The Guidance Document on Collection and Preparation of Sediments for Physicochemical Characterization and Biological Testing is employed at disposal sites for monitoring, as well as load sites.

Impact hypotheses derived during the permit application review constitute the logical foundation for any subsequent monitoring. Monitoring of disposal sites receiving dredged material generally relates to the same concerns:

  • short and long-term effects on biota
  • habitat destruction and unacceptable impacts on fish and fisheries
  • contamination of edible fish and shellfish
  • protection of sensitive areas
  • conflicts with other legitimate uses of the sea.

While the Disposal at Sea Program has responsibilities for monitoring the cumulative or long-term effects associated with the use of a disposal site, permit applicants should be aware that the responsibility may be shared with project proponents. If monitoring of cumulative effects is required at locations other than the disposal site, for example at a dredging site, the responsibility would likely fall upon the proponent.

See the disposal at sea home page for more publications.

Monitoring reports

Each year, environmental monitoring is conducted at representative disposal sites. The Disposal at Sea Program is administered through regional offices which are largely responsible for the permit review process, as well as for planning, conducting and reporting on monitoring studies undertaken in their areas. In order to respond to Canada's national and international reporting obligations, summaries of annual monitoring activities, based on regional detailed reports for the previous year, are produced.

To obtain a copy of one of the following reports send your request to immersion-disposalatsea@ec.gc.ca

Title Region Author Year of Publication Year of Monitoring
Point Grey Ocean Disposal Site: Benthic Faunal and Sediment Survey Pacific Brenda Burd (Ecostat Research Ltd) 2013 2010
Sediment Concentrations of PCBs, PBDEs, PCDDs and PCDFs from Disposal at Sea Sites at Point Grey and Sand Heads, British Columbia in 2010 Pacific P.S. Ross, K.A. Harris, N.J. Dangerfield, N.F. Crewe, C. Dubetz, M.B. Fischer, T.L. Fraser, and A.R.S. Ross (DFO) 2011 2010
Results of Classification of Monitoring Video from Disposal-at-Sea Sites in the Strait of Georgia Pacific Sarah Cook 2011 2011
Sediment Concentrations of PCBs, PBDEs, PCDDs and PCDFs from Disposal at Sea Sites at Brown Passage and Douglas Channel, British Columbia in 2011 Pacific P.S. Ross, H. Frouin, N.J. Dangerfield, N.F. Crewe, C. Dubetz, M.B. Fischer, T.L. Fraser, and A.R.S. Ross (DFO) 2012 2011
Evaluation of Brown Passage and Kitimat Arm Ocean Disposal Sites Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2012 2011
Sediment Profile Imaging at the Malaspina Strait Disposal Site Pacific NewFields 2013 2012
July 2013 Monitoring Survey Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2014 2013
Monitoring Survey Five Finger Island & Point Grey Disposal at Sea Sites (October 2013) Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2015 2013
Monitoring Survey Sand Heads Disposal at Sea Site (June 2014) Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2015 2014
Tier 1 Monitoring of Brown Passage Disposal at Sea site, Prince Rupert, BC, Canada - Sediment Profile Imagery Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2015 2014
Environmental Baseline Study of Proposed Dredge Disposal Site at Coast Island, Prince Rupert, BC, Canada - Sediment Profile Imagery Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2015 2014
Ocean Current Monitoring at Canpotex Coast Island Disposal Site for Marine/Freshwater Biological Assessment Task, Prince Rupert Harbour. Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2015 2015
Monitoring Survey in Kitimat Arm(July 2015) Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2016 2015
Sediment Profile Imaging at and near the vicinity of the Kitimat Arm Disposal Site, BC Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2016 2015
Monitoring Survey at Five Finger Island Disposal at Sea Site (October 2015) Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2016 2015
Monitoring Survey at Point Grey Disposal at Sea Site (October 2015) Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2016 2015
Monitoring Survey at Porlier Pass Disposal at Sea Site (October 2015) Pacific G3 Consulting Ltd. 2016 2015
Monitoring Survey of: Five Finger Island, Porlier Pass, Sand Heads, Thornbrough Channel & Watts Point Disposal at Sea Sites (September & October 2016) Pacific AquaTerra Environmental Ltd. And Mainstream Biological Consulting 2017 2016
Sediment Profile Imaging at and in the vicinity of the Five Finger Island DaS site, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2016
Sediment Profile Imaging at and in the vicinity of the Porlier Pass DaS site, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2016
Sediment Profile Imaging at an in the vicinity of the Sand Heads DaS site, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2016
Sediment Profile Imaging at an in the vicinity of the Thornbrough Channel DaS site, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2016
Sediment Profile Imaging at an in the vicinity of the Watts Point DaS site, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2016
April 2017 Monitoring Survey at the Cape Mudge Disposal at Sea Site Pacific C., Wong, R. Seifert, and R. Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019 2017
Sediment Profile Imaging at Cape Mudge Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2017
April 2017 Monitoring Survey at the Comox (Cape Lazo) Disposal at Sea Site Pacific C., Wong, R. Seifert, and R. Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019 2017
Sediment Profile Imaging at Comox (Cape Lazo) Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2017
April 2017 Monitoring Survey at the Malaspina Strait Disposal at Sea Site Pacific C., Wong, R. Seifert, and R. Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019 2017
April 2017 Monitoring Survey at the Point Grey Disposal at Sea Site Pacific C., Wong, R. Seifert, and R. Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019 2017
Sediment Profile Imaging at Point Grey Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2017 2017
Five Fingers monitoring report Pacific NRCAN 2018 2018
Sediment Profile Imaging at Cape Mudge Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2019 2018
Sediment Profile Imaging at Newcombe Channel Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2019 2018
Sediment Profile Imaging at Point Grey Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2019 20118
2018 Environmental Monitoring at the Sand Heads Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Roanna Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2018
Sediment Profile Imaging at Sand Heads DaS site, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Pacific Aquafact International Services Ltd. 2019 2018
2019 Environmental Monitoring at the Sand Heads Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Roanna Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2019
2019 Environmental Monitoring at the Point Grey Disposal at Sea Site Pacific Roanna Leung Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2019
Sediment Profile Imaging (SPI) at the Point Grey Disposal at Sea Site Pacific NewField Sediment Management and Marine Sciences 2020 2019
A Review of Existing and Historical Ocean Dumpsites in the Pacific Region Pacific A.B. Ward and D.L. Sullivan 1980 1980
Benthic Sediment Chemistry British Columbia Ocean Dumpsites October 1987 Pacific D.E. Brothers 1990 1987
Benthic Sediment Chemistry British Columbia Ocean Dumpsites October 1988 Pacific D.E. Brothers 1990 1988
Benthic Sediment Chemistry West Coast Survey Phase 1 June 1987 Pacific D.E. Brothers 1990 1987
Benthic Sediment Chemistry West Coast Survey Phase 2 June 1988 Pacific D.E. Brothers 1990 1988
Biological Assessment of Three Ocean Disposal Sites in Southern British Columbia Pacific D.L. Lee, S.G. Yee, M. (Van Rikxoort) Fennell and D.L. Sullivan Environment Canada 1995 1995
Compilation and Assessment of Research, Monitoring and Dumping Information for Active Dump Sites on the British Columbia and Yukon Coasts from 1979 to 1987 Pacific D.L. Sullivan 1987 1979
Disposal at Sea Activities Summary 1999 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan, S. Staples, J.E. Wilkinson, C. Brady, M. Waters 1999 1999
Disposal at Sea Activities Summary 2000 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan, S. Staples, J.E. Wilkinson 2000 2000
Disposal at Sea Activities Summary 2001 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan, S. Staples, J.E. Wilkinson 2001 2001
Disposal at Sea Activities Summary 2002 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan, S. Staples, J.E. Wilkinson 2002 2002
Disposal at Sea Activities Summary 2003 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan and J.E. Wilkinson 2003 2003
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary from 1987 to 1992 for Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific K. Kim and D.L. Sullivan 1993 1987
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary 1993 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific K. Kim, D.L. Sullivan, D.E. Brothers, C. Schnider 1993 1994
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary 1994 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan, D.E. Brothers, C. Schnider, K. Kim 1994 1994
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary 1995 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific C. Schnider and D.L. Sullivan 1995 1995
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary 1996 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific C. Schnider and D.L. Sullivan 1996 1996
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary 1997 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific K. Kim, C. Schnider and D.L. Sullivan 1997 1997
Ocean Disposal Activities Summary 1998 Pacific and Yukon Region Pacific D.L. Sullivan, D.L. Lee, C. Udell 1998 1998
Ocean Dumping Control Act 1983/84 Annual Report Pacific Jacques Gerin 1985 1983
Ocean Dumping Control Act 1984/85 Annual Report Pacific 1986 1984
Ocean Dumping Control Act 1985/86 Annual Report Pacific 1987 1985
Ocean Dumping Control Act 1986/87 Pacific 1988 1986
Hydrographic Survey Report on the July 2021 PSPC Survey at Black Point Ocean Disposal Site Atlantic Hydrographic Services, Atlantic Region, Public Services and Procurement Canada 2022 2021
Disposal at Sea/Optical Monitoring of Fish Waste Disposal Site, Charlottetown Fish Processing Facility, Charlottetown, Labrador Atlantic GHD Limited 2021 2021
Methods and Equipment Testing for Biological Monitoring Program, Les Aboiteaux Small Craft Harbour, Westmorland County, New Brunswick Atlantic GHD Limited 2020 2019
2017-2019 Monitoring at the Pigeon Hill Bar Disposal at Sea Site Atlantic Sue Ellen Maher, Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2017-2019
2019 Monitoring at Gaspé and Magdalen Islands Disposal at Sea Sites Québec Vicki DaSilva-Casimiro and François Marchand, Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2019
2019 Monitoring at the Dépot D Disposal at Sea Site Québec Vicki DaSilva-Casimiro and François Marchand, Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2019
Using hydrographic surveys to monitor compliance and improve the management of disposal sites in Eastern Canada: Results of the 2018 program National Environment and Climate Change Canada 2020 2018
Results of Canada's 2019 disposal site monitoring program National Environment and Climate Change Canada 2021 2019
Results of Canada's 2020 disposal site monitoring program National Environment and Climate Change Canada 2022 2020
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