Cleaning Up the St. Lawrence River

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by Elaine Kennedy

Twenty-two years ago, I read an advertisement which lured me down to the Civic Complex in Cornwall to discuss cleaning up the St. Lawrence River.  During the next few months, you and I will be asked if enough has been done to accomplish that goal.

In my next several columns, I am hoping to entice you into doing some thinking and then making a decision about the future of the St. Lawrence River from the Moses-Saunders Dam at Cornwall to the Beauharnois Dam at the east end of Lake St. Francis.

When this section of the River was designated as a polluted Area of Concern by the International Joint Commission, the culprits were the big industries on the Canadian and American side of the River.  Before there were strict regulations, they spewed contaminants into the River and our air.

When we all finally clued into the damage we were all doing to our environment, there was a legacy of contaminated fish, contaminated sediments, loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, smelly plants and algae in the river, questions about our drinking water, closed beaches in the summer time, too many weeds for boaters, not enough weeds for fishermen, raw sewage going into the River, and our ecosystem’s health was in dire straits.

The Remedial Action Plan (RAP) was divided into two parts, one for the Massena area, the other for the Cornwall area which extended into Lake St. Francis. I am going to be talking about the St. Lawrence (Cornwall) Remedial Action Plan. 

We brought out a report in 1992 that listed all the problems.  We brought out a report in 1997 that listed what should be done to correct the problems.  During the twenty-two years since this all started in 1988, there has been a lot of work done by industries, municipalities, the Raisin Region Conservation Authority and our provincial ministries of the Environment and Natural Resources, all led by Environment Canada.

We have brought you information at irregular times over the years about what we have been doing, but in the next few months, the intensity will increase.  It will be up to you to check the local media for meetings you can attend to get more information, websites you can look up, and how you can make your views known. 

We all have busy lives but I hope you can take a bit of time to learn what has been done, what has not been done, what needs to be done and help us decide if we should take our name off the list of the forty-three most contaminated Areas in the Great Lakes.

I believe all the libraries have copies of our RAP reports but if you can’t find them, please contact Katherine Beehler at 613 938 3611.  Katherine will also be preparing a program that groups can take advantage of, to learn more about the Remedial Action Plan.

There are some things that only time and Nature can cure.  But have we done enough?

Yours environmentally,

Organizations: International Joint Commission, Raisin Region Conservation Authority, Environment Canada Katherine

Geographic location: Cornwall, St. Lawrence River, Lake St. Francis Area of Concern Massena Great Lakes

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