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Coordinator of St. Lawrence River AOC Restoration Council updates on research regarding pollution issues

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MASSENA - The transition coordinator for the Canadian-based St. Lawrence River Area of Concern (AOC) Restoration Council says researchers at a watershed point of taking steps to address water quality isues.

“(St. Lawrence) is a great river and goes through two great nations. Every piece of work that I’ve done over the last few years with this, I realize that there are different nations, there are different people involved in this. Obviously all of us are connected to this river and feel ownership, and at the same time none of us own it. It belongs to all of us,” Karen Cooper said.

“... Six million plus people get their drinking water with the St. Lawrence as a source of drinking water. That’s incredibly important and that makes it relevant to those people.”

Ms. Cooper added that many industries connected to the industrial, recreational and tourism side of the river do not think enough about the drinking water aspect..

In her presentation, the coordinator discussed the industries located in Cornwall, Ont., that have impacted the river.

“Increasing settlement, agriculture industry, it’s all taking place along this corridor and has exponentially increased over the years. Decades of development led to great changes in landscape and water and land are connected. There’s no getting away from that,” Ms. Cooper said. “There’s two things that we’re connected to. Obviously the St. Lawrence power project, ‘greatest engineering feat of our time’ they still say in this area. Also, Cornwall’s water front.”

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was another focal point of her presentation. The agreement was initially signed in 1972 and focuses on critical environmental health issues in the region.

“The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was a big thing ,and it was signed with the international goal of cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes. But something happened in 1987, which leads us to where we are now. The amendments to that agreement created 17 areas of concern,” Ms. Cooper said. “Back to the whole St. Lawrence River area of concern, what makes us who we were and who we are is an industrial past, that H2O highway. We became an area of concern, we’ve spent the last 25 plus years working on that and we’re right now at a watershed point of taking the next steps.”

The St. Lawrence River AOC is an 80 kilometer stretch that ranges from Moses Saunders Power Dam off Barnhart Island in the town of Massena to the eastern outlet of Lake St. Francis in Quebec.

“So why are we selected as an area of concern. Some of the things ... mercury, PCBs, other contaminants that come from industries. Basically bacterial contamination, habitat destruction, excessive growth of nuisance acquired plants and invasive species are some of the things that were mentioned way back in the day,” she explained.

“Every Area of Concern had to look at a Remedial Action Plan (RAP), what we were going to do to remedy, to fix up what was wrong. These are goals that everyone has had to look at. Basically to look at the ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting what these Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) that we’ve been talking about. Also, making sure we have a historical record of where we’ve been so that we can hopefully find out where we’re going. Finally, we need to figure out what kind of actions are going to address these problems.”

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