Author / Presenter: Session Co-Chairs
Session: Mining, Environment, and the Evolution of Environmental Effects Monitoring
Date: Tuesday 03 October 2017
Time: 17:00 – 17:40
It has been almost three decades since Canada’s first federally regulated EEM program was developed and implemented for the pulp and paper (1992) and mining (2002) sectors. Similar requirements exist in the territories through Aquatic Effects Monitoring Programs (AEMP) and, more regulatory EEM programs are being developed for coal and diamond mines, wastewater facilities etc. The aquatic monitoring endpoints and the tools used to monitor those endpoints have remained virtually unchanged. The federal EEM programs also require Investigation of Cause (IOC) studies into confirmed statistical differences between reference and exposure communities. While routine monitoring is very prescriptive and supported by ample technical guidance, there are no specific requirements for how to conduct IOC studies and very limited guidance.
This discussion will focus on these extremes, and a third overarching question – how to interpret the results nationally.
IOC – Where do we go from here?
Aquatic monitoring has continued to evolve since these regulations came into effect, and many new tools have emerged. Some techniques include but are not limited to caging studies, subcellular partitioning, genomics, novel lab based toxicity testing approaches, speciation modeling, enzyme assays and other bioindicators, sediment biogeochemistry, synchotron analysis, laser ablation, histology and gene regulation. Many metal mines and pulp and paper mills have conducted at least one IOC study, and practitioners have amassed considerable knowledge about IOC. What has worked? What hasn’t worked? What can we learn from these experiences? Have we gotten any better at resolving difficult confounding influences like historical contamination? Is better technical guidance desirable, and if so, how can this accumulated knowledge and wisdom be incorporated into that guidance?
Are the prescriptive methods and endpoints we use now appropriate? What happened to using critical effects sizes in decision making? Are we adequately mining the existing data? What are key limitations of routine monitoring studies?
The Great Debate – How to Assess Results Across Multiple Sites?
An important objective of aquatic monitoring is to understand what is happening in the environment at the site-specific level. Federal EEM programs have additional objectives to understand what is happening at the national level, and to use that information to assess the adequacy of the regulations. To inform this, Environment and Climate Change Canada prepares national assessment reports. Comparing results across multiple sites is a challenge, and there has been much debate about the “right” way to do it. How do the different methods stack up? Do they tell us what we need to know? What is the best way to assess results across sites with different site-specific environments and conditions?