March 10, 2000

Vision 2000 report profiles St Lawrence industrial section

Under the auspices of the Vision 2000 St Lawrence Action Plan, the federal and Quebec governments recently released an environmental profile of the Pointe-du-lac-Deschambault section of the St Lawrence River. The report brings together in a single document the most current ecosystem data for this portion of the river, which extends from the outlet of Lac Saint-Pierre to the Richelieu rapids. It also summarizes the most pressing environmental problems for the area and remedial efforts to date, and proposes general directions for future efforts.

The area covered by the report has a total population of nearly 147,000 and includes one Indian reserve and five regional municipalities (Francheville, Portneuf, Nicolet-Yamaska, Becancour and Lotbiniere) within which exist 18 communities. Those of Pointe-du-lac and Nicolet are at the western edge of the study area, those of Deschambault and Lotbiniere at the eastern boundary. The region is a major centre of industrial activity, concentrated in a stretch running from Trois-Rivieres to Becancour.

The predominant industries, pulp and paper and metal processing, have contributed to the contamination of the St Lawrence and its tributaries, although most of these operations have taken steps to clean up their effluents, notes the report. A substantial proportion of the population living along the river is served by wastewater collection systems and treatment facilities. The bacteriological quality of the river water still leaves much to be desired, the report adds, particularly in the Trois-Rivieres area. Water uses in the study area include maritime transport and port activities, industrial consumption (with six industries taking over one million cubic metres per year), as well as a source of drinking water.

A biodiversity inventory indicates that the study area contains 3,800 hectares of wetlands, some of which are under legal protection as ecological reserves or are owned by conservation groups. Four sites considered important for wildlife conservation are under no form of protection, however. Forty-one of the 155 species assigned priority under the Vision 2000 plan are found in the study region, the report adds.

Within the study sector are a number of contaminated sites, of which six pose a potential risk for contamination of the river. Between 1950 and 1980, notes the report, there was a degradation of the biological and chemical quality of the river water in this area, along with a decline in biological diversity as a result of the industrialization and urban development along the edge of the river. Flow conditions in the river estuary have not permitted the accumulation of contaminated sediments, except in port zones.

By the end of the 1980s, continues the report, levels of phosphorus and certain heavy metals remained elevated through the entire section of the river, and by the early 1990s, some data indicated the presence of PCB, PAH and DDT. Among the initiatives to clean up industrial and municipal wastewaters have been reductions in discharges by the major industries and an expansion of wastewater treatment facilities. Conservation has been enhanced by the designation of ecological reserves and protection of sites by private organizations, and efforts have been made to improve public access to the river and its banks.

Future directions should build on these trends, says the report, including continuation of industrial and municipal cleanup programs already underway and support for the protection or restoration of wetlands. The report also recommends greater efforts to protect fish species that have been depleted.

Pesticide sales drop

In other activities, the Quebec Environment Ministry recently released a summary of pesticide sales in the province, showing a continued decline in total sales for 1997. Sales of pesticide products were down 10.6% from 1996, with the total quantities sold, 3.4 million kilograms, approaching 1995 levels.

Quebec's agricultural sector remains the largest user of pesticides, accounting for 80% of sales, a total quantity of 2.7 million kg. After an increase in 1996, sales dropped by 2.3% in 1997, notes the report. In terms of pesticides used per hectare of agricultural land, however, the amount has declined by 11%, from 3.6 kg/hectare in 1992 to 3.2 kg/hectare in 1997. This indicator, notes the Ministry, reflects the response to environmental concerns about agricultural pesticide use.

The agricultural sector purchased mostly herbicides, these making up 67% of sales, or 1.8 million kg, down slightly (0.7%) from 1996. Insecticide sales to this sector, however, rose substantially (29.3%), although they were still lower than sales in 1992. Fungicide sales also rose in 1997, by 10.4%, notes the Ministry. Overall, herbicides are the most widely used pesticides in both the industrial and domestic sectors, with sales remaining relatively stable and an increase of only 2.6% since 1992. Total sales of insecticides and fungicides have been dropping since that time.

The Ministry notes that it has made a number of changes to the 1997 edition of its annual summary of pesticide sales, having revised the types of products, chemical groups and uses by sector categories. Data for previous years have been adjusted accordingly to reflect the new presentation of information and allow comparisons.

The summary may be viewed on the Ministry's Web site at www.menv.gouv.qc.ca/sol/pesticid/bilan97/index.htm.

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