Environmental emergencies: science and technology research

Providing science-based expert advice

National environmental emergencies centre

In the event of an environmental emergency, the National environmental emergencies centre (NEEC) is Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) 24/7 hub for providing scientific and technical advice aimed at reducing impacts and ensuring measures are taken to protect the environment. ECCC will provide its expertise to all partners that have requested it and where ECCC’s support can enhance the protection of the environment. NEEC is based out of Montreal, Quebec with a number of staff located in key marine areas; Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Our marine response capacity is supported by the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. NEEC’s Environmental emergencies officers can be quickly deployed on-site to help at the scene of an emergency.

NEEC can supply a range of expertise and services to the organization leading the response, including:

  • Spill and air trajectory and dispersion modelling to track the path and intensity of air, water and ground pollutants,
  • Behaviour analysis of hazardous substances in the environment to understand the range of impacts,
  • Site-specific weather forecasts to coordinate response efforts,
  • Environmental sensitivity mapping (e.g. wildlife and sensitive ecosystems) to understand priority ecosystems and wildlife, and;
  • Shoreline clean-up assessment and remediation advice to determine environmental recovery steps.

Lead agency

The Lead agency is the governmental authority that regulates or has legislative authority over management of the incident. For example, if an oil spill occurs in the marine environment, the Canadian Coast Guard is likely to take on the role of Lead agency or if a federally-regulated pipeline is damaged, the National Energy Board may resume this oversight role.

The Lead agency assists all agencies involved to organize response actions. The concept is flexible and adaptable according to the location, contaminants involved, type of emergency and capacity of the different agencies involved. The Lead agency can change during the course of an incident.

The Lead agency oversees and monitors the responsible party’s response and recovery efforts. At any point they may request that Environment and Climate Change Canada provide scientific and technical advice.

Environmental emergencies science table

National environmental emergencies centre can chair a Science table to bring together a group of relevant experts in the field of environmental protection. Science table participants identify environmental protection priorities, and inform response actions that reduce the consequences of environmental emergencies.

Incident command system

The Incident command system is a standardized on-site management system used during an emergency designed to enable effective, efficient incident management. The system brings together the functions of the federal and provincial governments, local authorities and governments, and the responsible party.

Scientific support coordinator

During the response phase of an emergency, Environment and Climate Change Canada will designate its staff to serve as the Scientific support coordinator (SSC). The SSC ensures that the incident response is adequate and follows federal requirements and coordinates the delivery of ECCC’s products and services. The SSC provides intelligence, scientific and technical advice to the Incident command.

NEEC geomatic team

Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) prepares geospatial, digital sensitivity maps, databases, satellite imagery and other tools. This information contains details on local environmentally sensitive areas and seasonal considerations that could affect key physical, biological and cultural resources during an emergency.

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