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Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 Update Report

Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 Update Report

1.1 Sentinel Species for

1.1 Sentinel Species for Evaluating Impairment A number of species or groups are considered as sentinels for this impairment due to one or more of the following criteria: }} Respond to exposure to toxic contaminants and known to develop specific types of deformities/ reproduction problems as a result }} Physical association with bottom sediments (e.g., burrowing, feeding) }} Small home ranges }} Spend the majority of their lives within the AOC }} Sampled in ongoing monitoring or assessment activities }} Exposed to elevated levels of contaminants which biomagnify, though high proportion of fish or benthic invertebrates in diet }} Part of aquatic ecosystems }} Can be sampled/assessed non-lethally Sentinel species or groups which meet a reasonable number of these criteria are as follows: }} Snapping Turtle } } } Colonial waterbirds } Mink 1.2 Spatial Context for Evaluating Impairment Status There are two spatial scales which are considered in evaluating this BUI. The first is the Ontario portion of the AOC, which is the coarsest scale in assessing impairment. The second is a particular site or group of sites where elevated levels of deformities/reproduction problems have been determined for a sentinel species/group. The latter represents a more finite scale for evaluating impairment. Impairment status is evaluated in a hierarchical fashion from the smaller spatial scale to the larger. Therefore, the AOC is considered unimpaired when all or most sites are considered unimpaired based on the framework shown in table 22 above. Within the AOC, there is a further distinction between areas where animals are exposed to water or sediment-associated contaminants which have their source wholly within the AOC, versus areas where they may be exposed to contaminants arising from U.S. or upstream Lake Erie sources. In this case, sites along the Niagara River are considered as exposed to contaminants from U.S. and Lake Erie sources, while other sites are not. This is an important distinction because the RAP is only capable of addressing stressors and associated beneficial use impairments which have their source/cause within the Ontario portion of the AOC. 156

Niagara river remedial action plan stage 2 update 2.0 Available Evidence to Assess Impairment Status 2.1 Contaminant Levels in Indicator Species 2.1.1 Colonial Waterbird Egg Contaminants Monitoring (Hughes, 2004) Environment Canada also monitors contaminants in the eggs of colonial waterbird species at colonies from the Canadian side of the Niagara River, as well as other colonies in the Great Lakes. Egg contaminants monitoring is carried out annually at an unnamed island between Grand Island and Niagara Falls. The data record for the AOC is annually from 1979 for Herring Gull and for 1982, 1986, 1989, and 2000 for Black-crowned Night-heron. Contaminants measured since 1979 include DDE, PCBs, dieldrin, total chlordane, mercury, heptachlor epoxide, HCB, TCDD. Brominated Diphenyl Ethers (BDEs) have been measured since 2000. A summary of results is as follows, and results are discussed in more detail in Appendix E, section 2.2.1: }} Levels that fall within the range of other Great Lakes annual monitoring colonies (AMCs). Levels were higher than at the immediate upstream site at Port Colborne (L. Erie). They were substantially higher than Port Colborne for mirex, chlordane, HCB, and dioxin. There are significant sources for these contaminants on the US side of the Niagara River. }} Levels of sum PCBs and DDE were higher than other compounds (> 0.07 ug/g). }} Levels of all compounds are below levels considered to elicit population-level effects. }} Temporal trends show levels for all compounds have decreased substantially since 1979. 2.1.2 Contaminants in Snapping Turtles and their Eggs (Hughes, 2004; Fernie and de Solla, 2004) Contaminants in Snapping Turtles and their eggs were assessed by MNR Wildlife Branch in 1988-89 in the Welland River watershed (Hebert et al. 1993), and by Environment Canada in 2002 in the Lyons Creek watershed. Total DDT, total PCBs, and mirex was measured in turtle muscle in 1988-89, and PCBs, non-ortho PCBs, dioxins and furans and OC pesticides were measured in turtle eggs in 2002. A summary of results is as follows: }} Welland River 1988-89- mean concentrations of all contaminants were low (DDT- 0.0019 ug/g, PCBs- 0.132 ug/g, mirex- 0.0004 ug/g), below fish consumption guidelines and within the range of levels found in snapping turtle at other Southern Ontario locations. Age of sampled turtles was not reported. }} Lyons Creek East 2002- Eggs of five snapping turtle clutches had significantly higher sum PCBs (mean concentration of 1.214 ug/g) compared to the Wheatley Harbour AOC and two reference sites (Tiny Marsh, Severn Sound and Algonquin Park). Some of the TEQs exceeded CCME Environmental Quality guidelines for the protection of wildlife. The high levels of PCBs in this watershed are related to an area of PCB-contaminated sediment at the head of the creek. 157

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