Human Health Threat From Pollutants Remains Undefined in the Lake Ontario Lakewide Management Plan


Today, the International Joint Commission (IJC) released its review of the first stage of the Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) being developed for Lake Ontario by the Governments of Canada and the United States. The management plan provides information toward documenting the environmental problems to be addressed by the governments. According to the IJC review, which is required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, shortcomings exist in defining the threat to human health and in estimating the total loadings of Critical Pollutants to the lake. The IJC notes that the LaMP has not directly addressed either findings from research conducted at Oswego, New York, which examined and documented neurobehavioral effects on infants from maternal consumption of environmentally contaminated Lake Ontario salmon or trout or findings from several other studies which clearly demonstrate exposure of sub-populations to high levels of Critical Pollutants.

Lakewide Management Plans are being developed for each of the Lakes as part of a process to reduce loadings of Critical Pollutants to open lake waters so that the water is safe for drinking, swimming and fishing, and supports healthy fish and wildlife populations along with other "beneficial uses" listed in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The first stage of the LaMP is to define the environmental problem posed by Critical Pollutants, including the threat to human health and aquatic life. Critical Pollutants are substances that persist, singly or in combination with other substances, at levels that affect human health or aquatic life and impair beneficial uses. The six Critical Pollutants designated in the Stage 1 LaMP for Lake Ontario include pesticides ( DDT, dieldrin, and mirex) and other organic substances (PCBs, dioxin, and mercury).

The Commission notes that Lake Ontario LaMP's goals have been furthered by the following efforts:


  • development of the Lake Ontario Toxics Management Plan (LOTMP); and
  • implementation of the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan (NRTMP).

These efforts provide a substantial contribution toward the reduction of loadings of Critical Pollutants. For example, the NRTMP's previous target for 50 per cent reduction in loadings of dioxin, mercury, mirex and PCBs to the Niagara River represents a step toward the virtual elimination goal.

The Agreement requires that LaMPs be submitted to the Commission for its review and comment at four stages: problem definition, load reduction schedule, selection of remedial measures, and when Critical Pollutants are no longer impairing beneficial water uses.

The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the two Governments to prevent and resolve disputes over use of waters along the U.S. and Canada boundary. Under the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Commission assesses progress by the two countries to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. For more information, visit the Commission's worldwide web site at:

For further information contact Bruce Kirschner at the International Joint Commission Regional Office, 100 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, Ontario (519-257-6710) or P.O. Box 32869, Detroit, Michigan (313-226-2170 ext. 6710) or email: