Progress Addressing Environmental Issues in Thunder Bay Harbour

Research Shows “Unimpaired” Status for Phytoplankton & Zooplankton Populations

Organizations involved in the Thunder Bay harbour cleanup, or Remedial Action Plan (RAP), are recommending that “Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations” be removed from the list of local concerns. Plankton are microscopic organisms that live suspended in water, forming the base of the food chain.

At the outset of harbour cleanup in the late eighties, Thunder Bay was a highly industrialized harbour and designated as one ofseveral environmental “Areas of Concern” on the Great Lakes.

Municipal and industrial effluent from multiple sources impacted the harbour. Additionally, environmental regulations were less rigorous than they are today. Plankton populations were assumed to be impaired, based on Thunder Bay Harbour’s poor water quality The Thunder Bay Area of Concern has changed substantially since the outset of the RAP program. These changes include:

  • industrial and municipal effluent treatment upgrades
  • industrial closures
  • improved stormwater management.

Several studies have documented that contaminant and nutrient loading have declined from earlier levels and agencies supporting the RAP such as Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, are recommending a change in status for “Degradation of Phytoplankton and  Zooplankton Populations” to “Not Impaired.”

Anyone with questions or concerns about this change in status is welcome to comment. Comments can be directed to Jim Bailey, Remedial Action Plan Coordinator through

Thunder Bay’s harbour was listed as one of over forty environmental “Areas of Concern” around the Great Lakes in 1987, under the Canada – U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Urbanization, industrial and municipal wastewater discharges and habitat degradation were all contributing factors. Contaminated harbour sediment, water quality issues and also concerns about the health of fish and wildlife populations were cited as problems requiring remedial action.

The Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan is supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Lakehead University.

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