Bay of Quinte: Area of Concern

The contributions of federal, provincial and local agencies, First Nations, local industries, and others continue to have a positive impact upon the water quality and ecosystem health within the Bay of Quinte Area of Concern (AOC).

Why was it listed as an Area of Concern?

The Bay of Quinte was designated an AOC because a review of available data indicated that water quality and environmental health were severely degraded. Further monitoring showed excess nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, as well as stormwater and wastewater treatment plant discharges that caused excessive algae growth and bacterial contamination in the waters of the bay. Development along the shoreline contributed to a loss of wildlife habitat and sediment contamination from historical activities led to high levels of contaminants in fish. Ten of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement’s 14 beneficial use indicators of ecosystem health were deemed to be impaired and one was identified as requiring further assessment.

What has been accomplished?

Through the combined efforts of the Redmedial Action Plan partners, major accomplishments have been realized in the Bay of Quinte. Direct discharges of industrial waste have been substantially decreased as a result of the implementation of federal pulp and paper regulations and of the provincial Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement regulations in the mid-1990s. This reduction has led to process changes and upgrades to the treatment processes at local industries and within municipal wastewater plants.  

The greatest challenge in the Bay of Quinte AOC has been the management of nutrients (phosphorous) in municipal wastewater effluent, storm water and agricultural runoff and in the bottom sediments of the bay itself. The contribution of nutrients has caused extensive and excessive algae growth, including the toxic blue-green algae.

Phosphorus loads to the Bay of Quinte have been significantly reduced from 215 kilograms per day to 15 kilograms per day at sewage treatment plants bordering directly on the bay. Through the Bay of Quinte AOC Stormwater Management Implementation Program, stormwater management facilities are being designed and constructed by municipalities in an effort to reduce the effects of urban runoff on the aquatic ecosystem. 

More than 27,000 hectares of farmland have been converted from conventional to conservation tillage, and phosphorus inputs from rural sources have been lowered by more than 16,000 kilograms annually. The development of a Bay of Quinte Phosphorous Management Strategy will identify additional strategies to further reduce the amount of phosphorous going into the bay.

The implementation of the Habitat Enhancement Program, which involves public and private landowners, has led to the planting of native trees, shrubs and grasses along 40 kilometres of shoreline, as well as the rehabilitation or protection of 800 hectares of wetlands.

As a result of these combined efforts, the numbers of nearshore and open-water fish, coastal wetland fish, amphibians and marsh-breeding birds are now present in numbers consistent with a stable, diverse and healthy aquatic ecosystem. Scientific assessments of degradation of fish and wildlife populations, loss of fish and wildlife habitat and degradation of benthos beneficial uses have confirmed that they are no longer impaired and a formal change in status is anticipated to take place in 2017.

An assessment of the status of the restrictions on dredging activities beneficial use impairment has concluded that its restoration criteria have been met and consultations are underway towards its re-designation to “not impaired” status in 2016. An assessment of fish tumours or other deformities concluded that this beneficial use, whose status was uncertain and which had been considered to require further assessment, is not impaired and consultations are also underway toward confirming this status. 

What is left to do

Moving forward, further work is required to develop and implement long-term management strategies to protect the bay from excess nutrients. Stormwater runoff and sewage treatment plant discharges of phosphorous will be further reduced, and rural stewardship programs to reduce phosphorous loadings to tributaries will continue to be implemented.

Assessments of beach closings and restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odour problems impaired beneficial uses have been completed; it is anticipated that these two beneficial uses will be designated by 2018 as being “not impaired”. 

Continuing assessments of restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption and degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations impaired beneficial uses will be undertaken to track trends over time and ecosystem improvements. Decreasing trends in fish contaminants have already been identified, resulting in fewer restrictions on the consumption of fish from the bay.

On-going monitoring of the effects of various remedial actions on the area’s water quality and fish and wildlife habitat will also be a priority.

Outlook

It is anticipated that all actions to finalize the clean-up of the Bay of Quinte AOC will be completed by 2019. A phosphorous management plan for the Bay of Quinte will be developed prior to delisting. The implementation of this plan will help to reduce the inputs of phosphorous to the bay even further, to off-set the phosphorous that is continually being released by the sediment at the bottom of the bay.

Partners

Efforts in the Bay of Quinte are undertaken in a partnership between the Government of Canada, First Nations, other levels of government and non-government groups, including members of the public. 

Undertaking environmental restoration requires a large amount of scientific and technical expertise, local knowledge and hard work. One agency or group cannot engage in such a large task on its own, without the help of others.

Listed below are participants that contribute to efforts in the Bay of Quinte AOC:

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