NIAGARA RIVER TOXICS MANAGEMENT PLAN
The Niagara River flows 37 miles or 60 kilometers from Lake Erie to Lake
Ontario. Along the way, it serves as drinking water source, fishing grounds,
vacation spot, electricity generator, and employment opportunity to millions
of people. Unfortunately, the River has also served as the recipient of
toxic wastes that pollute its waters and prevent us from fully enjoying
its beneficial uses.
Since 1987, the Niagara River has been the focus of attention for four
environmental agencies in the U.S. and Canada referred to here as "The
Four Parties". The Four Parties signed a Niagara River Declaration
of Intent, pledging cooperation to achieve significant reductions of toxic
chemical pollutants in the Niagara River. The Declaration of Intent and
a work plan form the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan (NRTMP).
THE FOUR PARTIES
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (USEPA)
ENVIRONMENT CANADA (EC)
NY STATE DEPT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION (NYSDEC)
ONTARIO MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY (MOEE)
Since 1987, the Four Parties have worked both together and individually
to fulfill the ommitments of the NRTMP. This report reviews some of the
most significant accomplishments over the past ten years. A companion document
entitled "NRTMP Work Plan" lays out what the agencies intend to
do in the future to continue protecting the river.
Under the NRTMP, the Four Parties identified 18 persistent toxic chemicals
as "priority toxics", and established the milestone of a 50% reduction
by 1996 for the 10 priority toxics with significant Niagara River sources
("chemicals of concern"). Actions to reduce the levels of other
toxic chemicals in the River have also reduced the presence of the 10 chemicals
of concern. To give a more complete picture of accomplishments and of River
conditions, this progress report relies on information from a larger number
of chemicals than the 18 priority toxics to measure progress.
NRTMP PRIORITY TOXIC CHEMICALS
*10 CHEMICALS OF CONCERN
SUMMARY OF PROGRESS MADE
The Progress Report contains two parts. Part I describes the actions
that the Four Parties and individual agencies have taken to reduce the amount
of toxic chemicals going into the Niagara River from various sources. Part
II relates those actions to results at sources and to conditions observed
in River water, sediments, and fish. This summary presents the highlights
from both sections of the Progress Report.
Point sources are wastes originating from human activity that are generally
collected and treated before being released at finite, localized "points"
(e.g., pipes) to the River. They are more easily measured and controlled
than non-point sources that enter the River over a widespread area.
Before the 1987 Declaration of Intent was signed, MOEE and NYSDEC routinely
surveyed their point sources and implemented programs to control them using
environmental laws and regulations that issue permits limiting or banning
the release of toxic chemicals from point sources.
SOME U.S./CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL
PROGRAMS THAT CONTROL POINT SOURCES
U.S. Clean Water Act
NYS Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Canadian Environmental Protection Act
Ontario Environmental Protection Act
Municipal/Industrial Strategy for Abatement
After the Declaration of Intent, under the Canadian plan, MOEE monitored
21 point sources between 1986 and 1995. As of 1995, the number of Ontario
point sources directly discharging to the Niagara River had been reduced
to 16. The data show that the daily loadings of the 18 priority toxics have
been reduced by 99% over that period of time. None of the 10 chemicals targeted
for 50% reduction was detected at any of the 15 facilities sampled in 1995.
Under the U.S. plan, NYSDEC monitored the 29 most significant point sources
of toxic pollutants to the River. 26 of these dischargers are still operating.
Between 1981/82 and 1985/86, NYSDEC reported an 80% reduction in organic
and inorganic priority pollutants from the significant point sources. Between
1985/86 and 1993/94, another 25% reduction was reported. The NYSDEC monitoring
program does not specifically track the 10 chemicals of concern, although
most of them are included in the suite of USEPA priority pollutants reported.
Based on information available in 1987, the U.S. identified the Falls
Street Tunnel as the largest source of toxic pollutants from any of its
point sources. The Tunnel was once a major unlined industrial sewer cut
into the bedrock under the City of Niagara Falls. By the mid-1980s, it only
received overflows of wastewater from the sewers of a Niagara Falls industrial
area and contaminated groundwater from major waste sites infiltrating through
cracks in the bedrock. Unlike flows from other point sources, flows from
the Falls Street Tunnel entered the Niagara River untreated. In 1993, USEPA
and NYSDEC required the City of Niagara Falls to treat the contaminated
water flowing in the Falls Street Tunnel during dry weather at the Niagara
Falls treatment plant. The data gathered by the U.S. show that this action
has reduced, through wastewater treatment, the input into the River of mercury
by 70%, tetrachloroethylene by 85% and four other priority toxic chemicals
by almost 100%. The Tunnel's wet weather flow is intermittent, and in 1994,
averaged about 3 million gallons on the days overflows occurred. Monitoring
by the City of Niagara Falls continues to better characterize the Tunnel's
wet weather loads of toxic chemicals.
Non-point sources are discharges that originate from a widespread area
(e.g., farm lands, parking lots, hazardous waste sites) and enter the River
untreated by numerous pathways (e.g., ditches, groundwater). Since they
enter the River over a widespread area, they are difficult to measure.
U.S. HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES AND CANADIAN LANDFILLS
Given the limited information available about non-point sources, the
U.S. has proceeded with its actions based on the assumptions that hazardous
waste sites and contaminated sediments are the most significant non-point
sources of toxic chemicals to the River.
Under their non-point source plan, USEPA and NYSDEC surveyed their hazardous
waste sites and identified the 26 sites believed to have the greatest potential
for toxic pollutant loadings into the Niagara River. Accelerated remediation
schedules were established for these sites. To date, remedial construction
has been completed at 6 of the sites. The remedial technology will be operated
and monitored for effectiveness for years to come at those sites. Remedial
activities are underway at 11 sites (including 4 sites under interim remediation).
For many of these sites, significant remedial controls are already operating,
providing substantial load reductions. The remaining sites are under design
or study. USEPA has assumed that completing the remediation of a site cuts
off the load of toxic chemicals from the site to the River, based on cutting
off horizontal groundwater movement from the site. At some sites, a partial
reduction was estimated based on partial remediation cutting off a fraction
of groundwater movement from the site. Based on these assumptions, USEPA
estimates that remediations to date have reduced the inputs into the River
by at least 25%. USEPA also estimates that remedial activities to be completed
in 1997 will reduce the inputs into the River by 80%. All the sites will
be remediated by 2000. NYSDEC estimates that reductions to date are probably
higher. Work by USEPA and NYSDEC is underway to improve reduction estimates.
The simplifying assumption that allows the agencies to estimate these reduction
percentages needs to be confirmed in future reports through monitoring programs
implemented at each site.
REMEDIATION OF U.S. HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES
6 COMPLETED SITES
- Bell Aerospace Textron (Niagara Falls)
- Occidental Chem. Durez (Niagara Falls)
- Stauffer Chemical (Lewiston)
- DuPont Buffalo Ave (Niagara Falls)
- Frontier Chemical (Pendleton)
- Occidental Chem. Durez (No. Tonawanda)
11 SITES UNDER REMEDIAL CONSTRUCTION:
- Occidental Chem. Buffalo Ave (Niagara Falls)
- DuPont Necco Park (Niagara Falls)
- CECOS (Niagara Falls)
- Occidental Chem. Hyde Park (Niagara Falls)
- 102nd Street (Niagara Falls)
- Occidental Chem. S-Area (Niagara Falls)
- Buffalo Color Area D (Buffalo)
- River Road (Tonawanda)
- Niagara Mohawk Cherry Farm (Tonawanda)
- Olin (Niagara Falls)
Frontier Chemical Royal Ave (Niagara Falls)
Under the Canadian non-point source plan, MOEE surveyed its landfills
(1981-84 study). Five municipal landfills were identified as having the
potential to contribute contaminants to the River. Studies conducted by
MOEE in 1991 and 1993 showed that these landfills had minimal impact on
Under Canadian and U.S. programs, several tributaries to the Niagara
River have been cleaned up. 10,500 m3 (13,800 yd3) of sediments contaminated
with heavy metals, oil, and grease were removed from the Welland River using
innovative dredging techniques. Adjacent wetlands are being restored. About
6,000 m3 (8,000 yds3) of contaminated sediments were removed from Gill Creek.
22,000 m3 (29,000 yds3) of contaminated sediments were removed from Bloody
Run Creek. Pettit Creek Cove was restored to a wetlands after 18,000 m3
(23,500 yds3) of contaminated sediments were removed.
The progress made at the hazardous waste sites and in tributary clean-ups
appear to be reflected in a preliminary analysis of biomonitoring data recently
collected by MOEE with caged mussels placed at the mouth of Bloody Run Creek
and in the Pettit Flume. Bloody Run Creek was historically contaminated
with dioxin by the occidental Chemical Hyde Park site. The concentrations
of dioxin in caged mussels in 1994 and 1995 are less than half those found
in 1993, suggesting that remedial actions may have considerably reduced
the bioavailability of pollutants to the Niagara River from this area. The
preliminary data also show that concentrations of several chlorobenzenes
in caged mussels at Pettit Flume were considerably lower in 1995 than those
found in previous years, suggesting the positive effects of remedial activities
undertaken to date at occidental Chemical Durez in North Tonawanda.
In addition to cleaning up areas that are already contaminated, the agencies
are also trying to prevent toxic contaminants from reaching the River in
the first place. USEPA funds "Clean Sweep" programs, where unused
farm pesticides that might otherwise be poured down a drain or accidentally
spilled are collected and disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.
Between 1993 and 1995, over 21,000 kg (46,000 lbs) of toxic substances,
including DDT, dioxin, chlordane, and arsenic were collected in four New
York counties in the Niagara River/Lake Erie basin.
Ontario's Pollution Prevention Pledge Program (P4) promotes pollution
prevention initiatives in the industrial, commercial, and governmental communities.
The Canadian Niagara River Remedial Action Plan has targeted P4 for greater
implementation in the Niagara River area. A Canadian-U.S. partnership to
promote comprehensive municipal pollution prevention was established with
Hamilton-Wentworth and Erie County to promote and implement pollution prevention
initiatives for attaining the mutual goal of a sustainable community. MOEE
has also signed voluntary pollution prevention partnerships with several
industrial and commercial sectors in which members have committed to reductions
of pollutants. These sectors include: auto parts manufacturers, chemical
producers, motor vehicle manufacturers, metal finishers, the printing and
graphics industry, autobody refinishers, food processors, industrial laundries,
photo processors, and restaurants.
EC, MOEE, and USEPA are collaborating with Canadian and U.S. universities
to develop and apply an innovative computer model for predicting groundwater
flow and contaminant migration in fractured bedrock at a former PCB storage
site in Smithville, Ontario. The geology and groundwater flow conditions
at the Smithville landfill are similar to those found at sites near the
Niagara River, so the innovative technologies may have applications at Niagara
The agencies' efforts to reduce point and non-point sources of toxic
chemicals, combined with the widespread efforts at pollution prevention
may account for the overall reductions in toxic chemical levels that the
Four Parties have observed in water and fish data. The Upstream/Downstream
water sampling program operated by EC shows substantial decreases in the
concentrations of several chemicals (e.g., octachlorostyrene, hexachlorobutadiene,
hexachlorobenzene, mirex) that can be used as indicators of progress in
reducing the concentrations of chemical pollutants in the River. Spottail
shiner monitoring shows that PCB concentrations have decreased substantially
from the 1970s to the 1980s, although the decreases appear to have slowed
or reversed in the latter half of the 1980s.
The Four Parties acknowledge that the best way to restore the Niagara
River is by working in partnership with stakeholders. As such, we are committed
to keeping you involved in the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan. A public
involvement plan that outlines the various ways the Four Parties will involve
people in the NRTMP process is included in the companion document "NRTMP
We want to hear your reaction to this annual Progress Report. A short
evaluation form is included at the end of this report. Please provide comments
about how readable and understandable this report was, and make suggestions
for improvements. With your input, we hope to be able to present you with
a better report each year.
The Niagara River