Releases of harmful substances to water

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The release of some substances to the environment can harm human health, wildlife and biological diversity. Toxic metals released to water can enter the food web and accumulate in the tissues of living organisms. Exposure to these substances, even in small amounts, can be hazardous to both humans and wildlife. Mercury and its compounds, lead, and inorganic cadmium compounds are listed as toxicFootnote 1 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The mercury, lead and cadmium releases to water indicators track facility-based releases of these substances to water.

Summary

Key results

  • Releases of mercury, lead and cadmium to water were 67%, 56% and 43% lower in 2018 than in 2003, respectively
  • In 2014, a significant spillFootnote 2 accounted for 92%, 92% and 59% of total releases of mercury, lead and cadmium, respectively

Releases of mercury, lead and cadmium to water, Canada, 2003 to 2018

Releases of mercury, lead and cadmium to water, Canada, 2003 to 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Releases of mercury, lead and cadmium to water, Canada, 2003 to 2018
Year Mercury
(percentage change from 2003 level)
Lead
(percentage change from 2003 level)
Cadmium
(percentage change from 2003 level)
2003 0 0 0
2004 -11 -14 -6
2005 41 -13 -31
2006 -10 -21 -24
2007 -33 -41 -24
2008 -45 -14 -49
2009 -10 -32 -35
2010 -32 -22 -45
2011 -6 -29 -44
2012 -53 -42 -44
2013 -44 -47 -44
2014 518 499 28
2015 -70 -61 -55
2016 -57 -63 -51
2017 -68 -62 -46
2018 -67 -56 -43

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.12 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. This table accounts only for the releases to water reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria for releases of mercury, lead and cadmium and their compounds. These amounts should not be interpreted as comprehensive totals of releases to water of these pollutants in Canada.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Mercury, lead and cadmium are naturally occurring elements. Most releases of mercury, lead and cadmium to water are from wastewater and waste management effluents. Wastewater treatment plants do not generate mercury, lead or cadmium. The main source of mercury, lead and cadmium in wastewater is typically industrial discharges to sewers.

In 2018, wastewater and waste management releases accounted for 66%, 43% and 43% of total releases of mercury, lead and cadmium, respectively.Footnote 3 From 2003 to 2018, releases of mercury, lead and cadmium from this source declined by 73%, 70% and 62%, respectively.

Mercury

Releases of mercury to water

Mercury is released directly to water from sources such as the pulp and paper industry, mining operations and metal processing, and indirectly through wastewater treatment plants. Mercury in wastewater is usually from industrial discharges to sewers and effluent from waste landfills. Releases of mercury can also occur when a product containing mercury is manufactured, used, recycled and disposed of.Footnote 4 

Mercury releases to water by source
Mercury releases to water by province and territory
Mercury releases to water from facilities

Mercury releases to water by source

Key results

  • Since 2003, mercury releases to water have declined by 67% or 253 kilograms (kg)
  • In 2018, national releases totalled 122 kg
    • the largest source was wastewater and waste management, representing 66% (81 kg) of the total
  • In 2014, a significant spillFootnote 2 accounted for 92% (2 143 kg) of the 2 321 kg of mercury released

Mercury releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018

Mercury releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Mercury releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018
Year Wastewater and waste management
(releases to water in kilograms)
Non-ferrous metal production and processing
(releases to water in kilograms)
Mining and rock quarrying
(releases to water in kilograms)
Pulp and paper industry
(releases to water in kilograms)
Other sources
(releases to water in kilograms)
Total
(releases to water in kilograms)
2003 303.4 14.1 0.2 23.9 34.3 375.8
2004 270.3 13.3 7.1 16.9 25.3 333.0
2005 434.2 53.4 0.2 14.0 28.5 530.3
2006 225.7 61.6 3.1 26.0 20.6 337.0
2007 167.1 31.2 3.9 25.4 23.3 251.0
2008 146.8 10.7 3.2 22.8 24.5 208.0
2009 163.6 9.4 16.2 83.6 65.8 338.7
2010 136.5 23.3 4.6 70.5 21.4 256.2
2011 173.6 9.3 90.2 68.2 13.2 354.5
2012 100.3 5.9 17.0 43.9 9.1 176.0
2013 123.6 8.5 38.6 34.6 6.2 211.5
2014 87.4 10.4 2 174.4 47.8 1.4 2 321.4
2015 77.9 5.5 5.1 21.7 1.6 111.8
2016 83.5 30.7 12.5 21.2 12.2 160.0
2017 81.8 12.0 6.8 19.3 0.7 120.6
2018 80.8 14.3 14.2 11.3 1.8 122.5

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.07 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. The indicator includes the amount of elemental mercury and mercury in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria. As a result, the reported mercury releases to water account for only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Other sources include electric utilities, manufacturing (except pulp and paper), the oil and gas industry, ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous metal production and processing) and other miscellaneous sources. For more details on sources, please consult the Data sources and methods.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

In 2018, 3 sectors contributed 89% (109 kg) of total national releasesFootnote 3 of mercury to water: wastewater and waste management, non-ferrous metal production and processing, and mining and rock quarrying.

The largest reduction in mercury releases to water between 2003 and 2018 was in wastewater and waste management, with a reduction of 223 kg (73%). This decline contributed to 88% of the total decline in mercury releases to water.

Mercury has significant negative effects on human health and the environment. It persists and accumulates in ecosystems and biota. Exposure of Canadians to mercury poses a particular risk to populations such as indigenous people who rely heavily on the consumption of predatory fish, such as freshwater trout or Arctic char, and traditional food items, including marine mammals.

Releases of mercury to water by province and territory

Key results

  • In 2018, Alberta and British Columbia made up 54% (67 kg) of national mercury releases to water
  • Between 2008 and 2018, the largest reduction in releases of mercury to water was from Ontario, which reduced its releases by 55% (33 kg)

Mercury releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018

Mercury releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Mercury releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018
Province or territory 2008
(releases to water in kilograms)
2018
(releases to water in kilograms)
Newfoundland and Labrador < 0.1 0.1
Prince Edward Island n/a n/a
Nova Scotia n/a < 0.1
New Brunswick 12.2 2.6
Quebec 53.5 25.9
Ontario 60.0 26.7
Manitoba 0.2 0.4
Saskatchewan n/a < 0.1
Alberta 42.5 35.0
British Columbia 39.6 31.6
Yukon n/a n/a
Northwest Territories n/a 0.2
Nunavut n/a n/a
Canada 208.0 122.5

Note: n/a = not available, it indicates that the province or territory has no reported releases. Totals may not add up due to rounding.   

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.26 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. The indicator includes the amount of elemental mercury and mercury in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria. As a result, the reported mercury releases to water represent only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Reported releases from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories are too small to see in the figure.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Mercury releases to water were highest in Alberta in 2018, accounting for 29% (35 kg) of the national total. It was most commonly released in wastewater effluents.

Ontario had the largest decline in mercury releases between 2008 and 2018. Quebec had the second largest decline in mercury releases over this period. These declines in these provinces were mostly due to mercury reductions in wastewater and waste management.

In 2018, wastewater and waste management was the main source of mercury releases to water in Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. The pulp and paper industry was the largest source in New Brunswick. In Quebec, non-ferrous metal production and processing was the main source of releases of mercury to water. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, the largest source was mining and rock quarrying.

There were no reported mercury releases to water in Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Nunavut for 2008 and 2018. In 2008, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories had no reported releases.

Releases of mercury to water from facilities

The National Pollutant Release Inventory provides detailed information on emissions and releases from industrial and commercial facilities that meet its reporting criteria.

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators provide access to this information through an interactive map. The map allows you to explore releases of mercury to water from individual facilities.

Releases of mercury to water by facility, Canada, 2018

Releases of mercury to water by facility, Canada, 2018
Long description

The map of Canada shows the amount of mercury in kilograms released to water in 2018 by facility. Facilities are categorized by the amount of mercury released. The categories are: 0 to 0.01 kilograms, 0.01 to 0.25 kilograms, 0.25 to 1 kilogram, 1 to 2.5 kilograms, 2.5 to 5 kilograms and 5 to 19 kilograms.

Data for the map

Navigate data using the interactive map

How this indicator was calculated

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Lead

Releases of lead to water

Lead is released directly to water from sources such as the pulp and paper industry, metal processing, mining and rock quarrying, and indirectly through wastewater treatment plants. Lead in wastewater is usually from industrial discharges to sewers. Lead can be deposited on land or water surfaces and then build up in soils or sediments.

Lead releases to water by source
Lead releases to water by province and territory
Lead releases to water from facilities

Lead releases to water by source

Key results

  • Since 2003, lead releases to water have decreased by 56% or 13 518 kilograms (kg)
  • In 2018, national releases totalled 10 820 kg
    • the largest source was wastewater and waste management, representing 43% (4 623 kg) of the total
  • In 2014, a significant spill generated 92% (134 235 kg) of the 145 709 kg of lead releasedFootnote 2 

Lead releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018

Lead releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Lead releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018
Year Wastewater and waste management
(releases to water in kilograms)
Pulp and paper industry
(releases to water in kilograms)
Other sources
(releases to water in kilograms)
Non-ferrous metal production and processing
(releases to water in kilograms)
Mining and rock quarrying
(releases to water in kilograms)
Total
(releases to water in kilograms)
2003 15 486.5 2 583.0 1 901.7 2 253.9 2 112.9 24 338.1
2004 11 526.4 2 886.4 1 630.2 2 881.1 1 924.9 20 849.1
2005 9 472.4 3 340.5 1 964.1 2 778.4 3 712.7 21 268.0
2006 9 899.8 2 365.4 1 568.8 1 874.6 3 427.8 19 136.3
2007 6 417.4 2 370.8 1 395.0 1 819.4 2 251.7 14 254.4
2008 11 582.8 2 424.5 1 492.5 2 194.1 3 271.5 20 965.5
2009 8 489.6 2 252.7 1 954.3 2 148.8 1 611.0 16 456.4
2010 11 973.3 2 116.5 1 938.1 1 526.6 1 339.1 18 893.6
2011 8 990.8 2 908.8 1 886.3 1 518.9 1 876.0 17 180.8
2012 4 698.6 2 864.8 1 642.4 1 773.6 3 074.4 14 053.8
2013 4 660.3 2 423.3 1 905.9 1 483.6 2 388.7 12 861.9
2014 5 114.7 1 849.4 1 417.6 1 768.1 135 559.6 145 709.4
2015 4 395.9 1 637.9 1 236.7 1 336.7 996.7 9 603.9
2016 3 979.1 1 556.9 855.2 1 524.2 1 041.8 8 957.2
2017 4 428.6 1 431.0 1 130.8 1 107.5 1 071.6 9 169.0
2018 4 623.1 2 999.6 1 347.4 1 114.2 736.1 10 820.3

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.26 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. The indicator includes the amount of elemental lead and lead in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria. As a result, the reported lead releases to water account for only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Other sources include electric utilities, manufacturing (except pulp and paper), the oil and gas industry, ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous metal production and processing) and other miscellaneous sources. For more details on sources, please consult the Data sources and methods.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

In 2018, 70% (7 623 kg) of national releasesFootnote 3 of lead to water came from wastewater and waste management, and the pulp and paper industry.

Wastewater and waste management contributed to an 80% (10 863 kg) reduction in lead releases to water since 2003. Mining and rock quarrying, and non-ferrous metal production and processing contributed a further 10% (1 377 kg) and 8% (1 140 kg), respectively to the decrease in releases.

Exposure to lead, even in small amounts, can be hazardous to both humans and wildlife. Fishing tackle containing lead can pose a serious threat to birds if ingested. A single sinker or jig containing several grams of lead is enough to kill a bird. A recent study estimates every year approximately 460 tonnes of lead sinkers and jigs are lost into Canada's lakes and waterways.Footnote 5 

Releases of lead to water by province and territory

Key results

  • In 2018, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia made up 87% (9 402 kg) of national lead releases to water
  • Between 2008 and 2018
    • the largest reduction in releases of lead to water was from Ontario, which reduced its releases by 71% (7 246 kg)
    • the largest increase in lead releases to water was from Quebec, which had a 16% (553 kg) increase in releases

Lead releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018

Lead releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 to 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Lead releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018
Province or territory 2008
(releases to water in kilograms)
2018
(releases to water in kilograms)
Newfoundland and Labrador 2 175.4 74.5
Prince Edward Island n/a 11.6
Nova Scotia 8.5 0.3
New Brunswick 977.4 711.0
Quebec 3 408.4 3 961.6
Ontario 10 162.6 2 916.9
Manitoba 287.2 91.8
Saskatchewan 61.7 28.9
Alberta 666.7 160.2
British Columbia 3 215.7 2 524.0
Yukon n/a n/a
Northwest Territories 2.0 339.2
Nunavut n/a 0.3
Canada 20 965.5 10 820.3

Note: n/a = not available, it indicates that the province or territory has no reported releases. Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.27 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. The indicator includes the amount of elemental lead and lead in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria. As a result, the reported lead releases to water represent only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Reported releases from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are too small to see in the figure.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Lead releases to water were highest in Quebec in 2018, accounting for 37% (3 962 kg) of the national total.

Ontario had the largest decline in lead releases between 2008 and 2018. This decline was mostly due to reductions in releases from wastewater and waste management, and mining and rock quarrying. Quebec had the largest increase in releases over this period. A single pulp and paper facility was the primary reason for this increase.

In 2018, wastewater and waste management was the main source of lead releases to water in Ontario, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and Prince Edward Island. In Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba, the largest source was the pulp and paper industry. Mining and rock quarrying was the largest source in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and Nova Scotia. In British Columbia, the largest source was non-ferrous metal production and processing.

In 2008, there were no reported releases of lead in Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Nunavut. All provinces and territories reported releases in 2018, except for Yukon.

Releases of lead to water from facilities

The National Pollutant Release Inventory provides detailed information on emissions and releases from industrial and commercial facilities that meet its reporting criteria.

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators provide access to this information through an interactive map. The map allows you to explore releases of lead to water from individual facilities.

Releases of lead to water by facility, Canada, 2018

Releases of lead to water by facility, Canada, 2018
Long description

The map of Canada shows the amount of lead in kilograms released to water in 2018 by facility. Facilities are categorized by the amount of lead released. The categories are: 0 to 0.5 kilograms, 0.5 to 5 kilograms, 5 to 20 kilograms, 20 to 50 kilograms, 50 to 100 kilograms and 100 to 1 576 kilograms.

Data for the map

Navigate data using the interactive map

How this indicator was calculated

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Cadmium

Releases of cadmium to water

Cadmium can be released directly to water from human activities such as non-ferrous metal production and processing, and fuel consumption for electricity or heating, and indirectly through wastewater treatment plants. Cadmium in wastewater is usually from industrial discharges to sewers. Cadmium is used in batteries and in electroplating to protect other metals from corrosion.

Cadmium releases to water by source
Cadmium releases to water by province and territory
Cadmium releases to water from facilities

Cadmium releases to water by source

Key results

  • Since 2003, cadmium releases to water have declined by 43% or 2 112 kilograms (kg)
  • In 2018, national releases totalled 2 831 kg
    • the largest source was wastewater and waste management, representing about 43% (or 1 204 kg) of national releases
  • In 2014, a significant spill accounted for 59% (3 768 kg) of the 6 339 kg of cadmium releasedFootnote 2 

Cadmium releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018

Cadmium releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Cadmium releases to water by source, Canada, 2003 to 2018
Year Wastewater and waste management
(releases to water in kilograms)
Pulp and paper industry
(releases to water in kilograms)
Mining and rock quarrying
(releases to water in kilograms)
Non-ferrous metal production and processing
(releases to water in kilograms)
Other sources
(releases to water in kilograms)
Total
(releases to water in kilograms)
2003 3 194.7 1 012.2 179.8 426.4 129.6 4 942.8
2004 2 258.1 957.7 423.0 867.8 136.2 4 642.7
2005 1 390.6 931.1 400.3 454.0 228.8 3 404.7
2006 1 450.8 1 076.4 514.6 435.3 266.9 3 744.0
2007 1 113.3 1 104.2 395.8 877.7 263.8 3 754.8
2008 977.0 766.1 52.7 394.8 346.4 2 536.9
2009 1 259.9 710.4 367.9 365.4 509.3 3 212.8
2010 1 211.2 704.5 186.3 289.0 344.7 2 735.8
2011 1 356.3 777.4 134.5 321.5 201.8 2 791.5
2012 1 233.2 823.7 158.9 327.0 200.9 2 743.8
2013 902.2 1 095.6 268.0 352.2 145.9 2 763.8
2014 968.0 941.5 4 001.7 319.5 107.9 6 338.6
2015 976.7 770.0 114.7 287.3 83.8 2 232.5
2016 1 129.4 784.9 110.4 314.1 103.3 2 442.1
2017 1 248.0 809.6 236.9 282.2 116.4 2 693.2
2018 1 204.0 763.2 503.7 229.6 130.4 2 830.9

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.18 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. The indicator includes the amount of elemental cadmium and cadmium in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria. As a result, the reported cadmium releases to water account for only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Other sources include electric utilities, manufacturing (except pulp and paper), the oil and gas industry, ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous metal production and processing) and other miscellaneous sources. For more details on sources, please consult the Data sources and methods.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

In 2018, 87% (2 471 kg) of cadmium released to waterFootnote 3 came from wastewater and waste management, the pulp and paper industry, and mining and rock quarrying.

Wastewater and waste management contributed to an 94% (1 991 kg) reduction in cadmium releases to water since 2003. The pulp and paper and non-ferrous metal production and processing industries together contributed an additional 21% (249 kg and 197 kg, respectively) to the total decrease in cadmium.

Between 2003 and 2018, the largest reduction in releases of cadmium to water was from wastewater and waste management, with a reduction of 62% (1 991 kg). Over the same period, releases from mining and rock quarrying increased by 180% (324 kg).

Exposure to cadmium can be hazardous to both humans and wildlife since it accumulates in the food chain over time.

Releases of cadmium to water by province and territory

Key results

  • In 2018, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec made up 82% (2 323 kg) of national cadmium releases to water
  • Between 2008 and 2018
    • the largest reduction in releases of cadmium to water was from Quebec, which reduced its releases by 34% (239 kg)
    • the largest increase in cadmium releases to water was from Ontario, which had a 64% (404 kg) increase in releases

Cadmium releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018

Cadmium releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Cadmium releases to water by province and territory, Canada, 2008 and 2018
Province or territory 2008
(releases to water in kilograms)
2018
(releases to water in kilograms)
Newfoundland and Labrador 2.9 4.2
Prince Edward Island n/a 15.9
Nova Scotia 8.3 0.4
New Brunswick 277.4 119.8
Quebec 698.1 459.1
Ontario 630.9 1 034.7
Manitoba 90.0 221.3
Saskatchewan 19.8 0.8
Alberta 214.2 144.1
British Columbia 595.3 829.5
Yukon n/a n/a
Northwest Territories n/a 1.0
Nunavut n/a < 0.1
Canada 2 536.9 2 830.9

Note: n/a = not available, it indicates that the province or territory has no reported releases. Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.27 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports facility-based releases only. The indicator includes the amount of elemental cadmium and cadmium in any compound, alloy or mixture reported in the National Pollutant Release Inventory based on the inventory reporting criteria. As a result, the reported cadmium releases to water represent only a portion of the releases of this toxic pollutant to water in Canada. Reported releases from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are too small to see in the figure.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Cadmium releases to water were highest in Ontario in 2018, accounting for 37% (1 035 kg) of the national total. Wastewater and waste management was the main source of these releases.

Between 2008 and 2018, Quebec had the largest decrease in cadmium releases. This decrease was mostly due to reductions at a foundry and within wastewater and waste management. Ontario had the largest increase in releases over this period. The increase resulted from wastewater and waste management.

In 2018, wastewater and waste management was the main source of cadmium releases to water in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. The pulp and paper industry was the largest source in British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Mining and rock quarrying was the largest source in Manitoba and Nunavut. In the Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia, the largest sources were electric utilities and manufacturing (except pulp and paper), respectively.

In 2008, there were no reported releases of cadmium in Prince Edward Island, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. All provinces and territories reported releases in 2018, except for Yukon.

Releases of cadmium to water from facilities

The National Pollutant Release Inventory provides detailed information on emissions and releases from industrial and commercial facilities that meet its reporting criteria.

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators provide access to this information through an interactive map. The map allows you to explore releases of cadmium to water from individual facilities.

Releases of cadmium to water by facility, Canada, 2018

Releases of cadmium to water by facility, Canada, 2018 (see long description below)
Long description

The map of Canada shows the amount of cadmium in kilograms released to water in 2018 by facility. Facilities are categorized by the amount of cadmium released. The categories are: 0 to 0.5 kilograms, 0.5 to 5 kilograms, 5 to 10 kilograms, 10 to 20 kilograms, 20 to 40 kilograms and 40 to 412 kilograms.

Data for the map

Navigate data using the interactive map

How this indicator was calculated

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Pollutant Release Inventory.

About the indicators

About the indicators

What the indicators measure

These indicators track facility-based releases to water of 3 substances that are defined as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999: mercury, lead and cadmium and their compounds. For each substance, data are provided at the national, regional (provincial and territorial) and facility level and by source.

Why these indicators are important

Mercury and its compounds, lead and inorganic cadmium compounds are on the Toxic substances list under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. This means that these substances are "entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that (a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity; (b) constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or (c) constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."

The indicators inform Canadians about releases to water of these 3 substances from facilities in Canada. The Releases of harmful substances to water indicators also help the government to identify priorities and develop or revise strategies to inform further risk management and to track progress on policies put in place to reduce or control these 3 substances and water pollution in general.

Safe and healthy communities

These indicators support the measurement of progress towards the following 2019 to 2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goal: All Canadians live in clean, sustainable communities that contribute to their health and well-being.

In addition, the indicators contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are linked to the 2030 Agenda's Goal 12, Responsible consumption and production and Target 12.4, "By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment."

Related indicators

The Emissions of harmful substances to air indicators track human-related emissions to air of 3 toxic substances, namely mercury, lead and cadmium, and their compounds. For each substance, data are provided at the national, provincial/territorial and facility level and by source. Global emissions to air are also provided for mercury.

The Human exposure to harmful substances indicators track the concentrations of 4 substances (mercury, lead, cadmium and bisphenol A) in Canadians.

Data sources and methods

Data sources and methods

Data sources

Data for the indicators and the interactive maps are taken from the National Pollutant Release Inventory (the inventory). These indicators include the amount of elemental mercury, lead and cadmium in any compound, alloy or mixture released to water as reported to the inventory based on its reporting criteria as listed in section 5.3 of the Guide to Reporting to the National Pollutant Release Inventory 2018 and 2019 (PDF; 1.50 MB).

More information

The inventory is compiled by Environment and Climate Change Canada (the department), and includes releases reported by industrial, commercial and institutional facilities. It is Canada's legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling. It consists of information reported by facilities to the department under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (the act). Under the act, owners or operators of facilities that manufacture, process or otherwise use or release one or more of the substances tracked by the inventory and that meet reporting thresholds and other requirements must report their pollutant releases annually. 

Estimation of releases to water

Releases to water are estimated or measured through one of the following methods:

  • continuous emission monitoring systems
  • predictive emission monitoring
  • source testing
  • mass balance
  • site-specific emission factors
  • published emission factors
  • engineering estimates

These measurement methods and estimation techniques are used by the facilities to report their releases (point sources) to the inventory. The Report to the National Pollutant Release Inventory program web page provides information to owners or operators of facilities required to report to the inventory, as well as details on the program's calculation methods.

Data completeness

Because the indicators are derived solely from the inventory's database, they reflect only releases from facilities that met the reporting criteria. As a result, the indicators do not include all releases in Canada. They are limited to the main point sources for each selected toxic substance.

Data timeliness

The data are current up to 2018. The indicators are reported approximately 1.5 years after data collection because of the time required for data validation, analysis and interpretation.

Methods

The indicators are produced by grouping data from the inventory to report on the key sources that contribute to the majority of mercury, lead and cadmium releases to water.

More information

Indicator coverage

Historical data are provided at the national level and by source for the period from 2003 to 2018. The year 2003 was selected as the first year for releases to water because it was the year the inventory updated its reporting criteria for mercury, lead and cadmium. For the provincial/territorial charts, releases to water are provided for 2008 and 2018. Releases of mercury, lead and cadmium to water by facility are displayed on the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators' interactive maps.

Sources classification

Source descriptions for the indicators were taken from Statistics Canada's North American Industry Classification System. The 4-digit code of the classification system, as reported by the facilities, was used for source classification for the data reported by the inventory. These sources were then classified into the following sources for reporting in the indicators:

  • electric utilities
  • wastewater and waste management
  • manufacturing (except pulp and paper)
  • mining and rock quarrying
  • miscellaneous
  • non-ferrous metal production and processing
  • oil and gas industry
  • ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous metal production and processing)
  • pulp and paper industry

Table 1 shows the allocation of sources of harmful substances reported in the indicators compared with those reported by the inventory.

Table 1. Alignment of sources reported in the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators and the National Pollutant Release Inventory
Sources in the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators Sources in the National Pollutant Release Inventory
(based on the North American Industry Classification System)
Electric utilities Electric power generation, transmission and distribution
Wastewater and waste management Water, sewage and other systems
Wastewater and waste management Waste collection
Wastewater and waste management Waste treatment and disposal
Wastewater and waste management Remediation and other waste management services
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Forest nurseries and gathering of forest products
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Sawmills and wood preservation
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Veneer, plywood and engineered wood product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Petroleum and coal product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Basic chemical manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Other chemical product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Rubber product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Glass and glass product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Cement and concrete product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Forging and stamping
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Spring and wire product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Coating, engraving, cold and heat treating and allied activities
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Other fabricated metal product manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Electrical equipment manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Other electrical equipment and component manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Motor vehicle parts manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Aerospace product and parts manufacturing
Manufacturing (except pulp and paper) Other miscellaneous manufacturing
Mining and rock quarrying Coal mining
Mining and rock quarrying Metal ore mining
Mining and rock quarrying Non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying
Miscellaneous Support activities for water transportation
Miscellaneous Other professional, scientific and technical services
Miscellaneous General medical and surgical hospitals
Miscellaneous Recyclable material merchant wholesalers
Non-ferrous smelting and refining industry Non-ferrous metal (except aluminum) production and processing
Oil and gas industry Oil and gas extraction
Ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous smelting and refining) Iron and steel mills and ferro-alloy manufacturing
Ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous smelting and refining) Steel product manufacturing from purchased steel
Ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous smelting and refining) Alumina and aluminum production and processing
Ore and mineral industries (except non-ferrous smelting and refining) Foundries
Pulp and paper industry Pulp, paper and paperboard mills
Pulp and paper industry Converted paper product manufacturing

For display purposes, sources with smaller releases are sometimes grouped together under the category "Other sources" in the figures and corresponding data tables of releases by source. The grouped sources may differ by substance and are listed in the notes of each figure and data table.

Recent changes

The non-ferrous smelting and refining industry source in the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators was changed to non-ferrous metal production and processing to be more inclusive. Under the North American Industry Classification System, non-ferrous metal (except aluminum) production and processing includes 2 sectors: non-ferrous (except aluminum) smelting and refining and non-ferrous metal (except copper and aluminum) rolling, drawing, extruding and alloying.

Caveats and limitations

The indicators reflect only facility-based releases to water as reported to the inventory. They do not include estimates of releases from other sources, such as runoff from cities, transboundary pollution or from consumer products in Canada.

Occasional updates and data quality checking can be done after initial release of the inventory.

The number and composition of facilities that report releases to water to the inventory vary each year. This variation is due to the fact that only facilities that meet or exceed the reporting threshold are required to report. An analysis of how this might affect the apparent trends has not been undertaken.

Facilities reporting to the inventory may use different methods to calculate releases. These methods vary depending on the substance and/or facility, and may also change from year to year.

Resources

Resources

References

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Using and interpreting data from the National Pollutant Release Inventory. Retrieved on December 30, 2020.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Study to gather use pattern information on lead sinkers and jigs and their non-lead alternatives in Canada. Retrieved on December 30, 2020.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) Bulk data files for all years – releases, disposals, transfers and facility locations. Retrieved on December 30, 2020.

Related information

NPRI sector overview: Aluminium

NPRI sector overview: Electricity

NPRI sector overview: Metal ore mining

NPRI sector overview: Oil sands extraction

NPRI sector overview: Wastewater

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