Environment Canada (Guidelines Division, Science Policy & Environmental Quality Branch) develops Canadian sediment quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life as part of its obligations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which dictates the federal government's responsibilities with respect to monitoring activities, substance assessments, pollution prevention and control strategies, and regulatory activities (e.g., ocean disposal of dredged sediments). These national sediment quality guidelines are developed cooperatively with the provincial and territorial governments through the Water Quality Guidelines Task Group of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME; a joint federal, provincial and territorial council committed to intergovernmental cooperation on environmental matters in Canada).

National sediment quality guidelines for chemical substances, which are developed using toxicological information, represent concentrations of individual chemicals below which adverse biological effects are not expected. They are developed with the intention to be conservative, national benchmarks (i.e., reference points) to protect and sustain aquatic life. These resource-use based guidelines provide scientifically-defined measures to evaluate the status and progress towards societal goals for the maintenance, protection, and remediation of environment quality (Gaudet et al. 1995). Although Canadian sediment quality guidelines provide a nationally consistent, scientific basis for management decisions, such as the development of substance-, site- , or issue-specific objectives or standards, they do not directly incorporate management considerations (e.g., cost and technological limitations) nor are they intended to serve directly as management objectives without due consideration of such factors. Therefore, effective implementation of national sediment quality guidelines requires that this distinction (between generic guidelines and site-specific objectives) be recognized within a broader decision-making framework.

In Canada, sediment quality guidelines are developed using a nationally-approved protocol (CCME 1995) to ensure consistency, transparency, and scientific defensibility in the process. Sediment quality guideline technical documents for individual chemicals, or groups of substances, are currently under development by the Guidelines Division for a number of substances. The document, Canadian Sediment Quality Guidelines for Cadmium, is currently in press and should be available in early 1997. The draft Environment Canada document, Proposed Interim Canadian Sediment Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life, will be finalized this fall for Departmental review, and will be available externally once this review is complete.

References Cited:

CCME (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment). 1995. Protocol for the Derivation of Canadian Sediment Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life. Report CCME EPC-98E. Prepared by the Technical Secretariat of the Water Quality Guidelines Task Group, Winnipeg, Manitoba. 38 p.

Gaudet, C.L., K.A. Keenleyside, R.A. Kent, S.L. Smith, and M.P. Wong, 1995. How should numerical criteria be used? The Canadian approach. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 1(1): 19-28.

For more information, contact Sherri Smith (819-953-3082; SMITHSH@CPITS1.AM.DOE.CA) or Karen Keenleyside (819-997-4070; KEENLEYSIDEK@CPITS1.AM.DOE.CA) at Environment Canada.