Owen Sound Harbour toxic to fish and a potential hazard to humans

The main concern of the Chiefs and Councils of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) is with the integrity of the environment of their traditional territories and with projects are not incompatible with the use that the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded FN and the Chippewas of Saugeen would make of the land. It is the job of the SON Environment Office to ensure no project harms the rights and claims of the SON. In this way we work to protect not only SON’s traditional territories but the health and safety of our neighbours in surrounding communities.

In this spirit we are releasing the summary of the most recent studies completed by Trent University in partnership with SON-EO on the ecotoxicological Hazards in Owen Sound Harbour. The story of this report is that pollution in the Harbour is high and extensive and bad for the health of fish and fish stocks, and its sediment can harm people if they are exposed to it.

*The results of the study echo the report by Dillon Consulting (2010) and show that polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other toxic organic and inorganic compounds are concentrated in the Harbour in levels that exceed sediment and water quality guidelines for the protection of fish.
*The SON-Trent report also confirms the Dillon finding that the area affected reaches beyond the mouth of the Harbour to Kelso Beach on the east side.
*Lab tests indicate the sediment in the Harbour, if disturbed, can harm fish health and recruitment of stocks.
*PAH levels in the sediment exceed Canadian guidelines for the protection of human health and so pose a cancer risk for people who come in contact with it.

Disturbing the contaminated sediments would increase the risks of ecotoxicological effects and should not be conducted without a full evaluation of those risks.

Leaving the Harbour as it is does not address the current contaminant hazards,” says Doran Ritchie, the Resources Manager for the SON Environmental Office. “A full evaluation of remediation options, as well as an in-depth evaluation of risks associated with each option is necessary to properly ensure the protection of the SON fishery, ecological and human health.

Michael Johnston, the Manager of the Environmental Office: “Because risk to the fishery and to fishers who come in contact with sediment in the Harbour is so great, we have asked the Crown to enter into proper consultations with SON over any action it is contemplating regarding the Harbour. Unfortunately, we’ve had no response to our requests. We know the City of Owen Sound has had similar problems with Transport Canada. The Crown owes SON a duty to consult, but it also owes the people of Owen Sound a clear and transparent discussion of what to do with the Harbour.

For more information, please contact:
Doran Ritchie, SON Resources Manager, d.ritchie@saugeenojibwaynation.ca, Cell: (519) 374-9210 cell.
Michael Johnston, SON EO Manager, michael.johnston@saugeenojibwaynation.ca, Cell: (289) 388-4476

For the interview on Bayshore Radio’s Open Line on CFOS go here: 
(The first half-hour is on Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The second half-hour is on the Harbour Report)

Click here for the Summary of Trent-SON Report OSHarb

About the Author
  1. Dieter Heinrich Reply

    An idea: Could the sediment in the harbour possibly be used commercially as a resource so that dredging it with a low-disturbance vacuum method might partially pay for itself? One possibility might be to pump it ashore to settlement ponds where particles of different weight would separate in the plume. This might produce grades of clays suitable for making ceramics or bricks, or sand for concrete, which would encase the toxins.

    • Dieter – I’ll pass your suggestion on to the biologist. I have not heard of that – I know that they encased part of Hamilton’s polluted harbour in concrete to keep the contaminants in place. Apparently the concrete is being colonized anew by marine biota.
      Jan 8/19: Our fisheries biologist, Kathleen Ryan, says this to your comment: “Interesting idea! As SON works through this important issue in OS harbour, we are open to learning about all types of potential remediation strategies towards increasing ecosystem health in the area. This is a strategy that we will have to look into further as we consider all available options. Miigwetch.”

Leave a Reply


captcha *