Federal Government Declares Proposed Mine Site To Be Critical Habitat

Last week, the federal government declared that dozens of streams and rivers in southwestern Alberta are critical habitat for endangered trout species.

On December 2nd, the Alberta Wilderness Association said that it would drop a lawsuit against Ottawa which sought to force the federal government to issue the order. Under law, critical habitat for native cutthroat trout was supposed to have been declared more than a year ago under the previous Conservative government.

“We’re happy that we likely do not have to follow through with it,” said Brittany Verbeek, the association’s conservation director.

Verbeek said the order lends protection to the creeks, streams and tributaries draining into the Oldman and Crowsnest rivers that are home to the trout. The fish were already protected under the Fisheries Act; now their home is protected under the Species At Risk Act.

“It just means that the area surrounding where the fish live has that increased protection.”

Changes to the stream, such as increasing its sediment load, are now forbidden.

The Alberta government is considering an application from a subsidiary of an Australian company to build a coal mine on a mountaintop in the protected habitat. Benga Mining proposes to turn 12 square kilometres on the top of Grassy Mountain near Blairmore into a terraced site.

At the same time, the province’s energy regulator is investigating the company for a release of coal into Gold Creek, one of the streams included in the critical habitat declaration.

A recent survey by a fisheries biologist found virtually all southern Alberta streams that spawn native trout are threatened by industrial development or overuse.

Lorne Fitch studied 54 small rivers and streams that flow into the Oldman River and which hold bull and cutthroat trout, largely in the area now considered critical habitat. He found nearly all of them face damage from logging roads, energy development and off-highway vehicle trails.

Scientists suggest land that contains trout streams shouldn’t have more than just over half a kilometre of trail, cutline or road per square kilometre. The disturbance density in parts of the Oldman watershed is nearly 10 times that.

Cutthroat populations are estimated at five per cent of historic levels.


From Bob Weber – The Canadian Press

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/feds-say-proposed-alberta-coal-mine-site-a-key-fish-habitat-1.2684688

Photo credit: Robert Berdan



Why a Canadian Ban on Microbead Matters

Microbeads. It’s a dirty word, isn’t it? These tiny plastic particles, which first appeared in our personal care products in the late 1970s, have been washing down our drains, making their way past treatment plants, and contaminating waterways across Canada and around the globe.


Last Friday, the Government of Canada proposed in a press release that they planned to develop regulations that would ban microbeads from use in personal care products. The regulations would prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of personal care products that contain microbeads.1 The decision was informed by a 130-paper scientific review and analysis.


The next steps, the press release states, will be to add microbeads to the List of Toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (EPA).


Canada first started getting serious about microbeads back in March, when Environment Canada began to study the dangers they posed to wildlife and the environment. It was at that time the NDP first asked the federal government to list microbeads as a potential toxic substance because of the risk they posed to the health of humans, animals, and the environment.2


In 2014, the 5 Gyres Institute did a study of the U.S. Great Lakes, where they found an average of 43,000 microplastic particles per square kilometre. That number doesn’t even begin to come close to what was found near cities (about 466,000).1 In the same year, Illinois became the first U.S. state to enact legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of microbead-containing products; other states began to follow suit, including New Jersey and New York State.


Most corporations, including Loblaws and Johnson & Johnson, have promised to phase out microbeads by 2017 or 2018.3



Government of Canada. (July 31, 2015). Harper Government to ban microbeads in personal care products.  Retrieved from: http://goo.gl/BsuWCm.

The Canadian Press. (March 25, 2015). Plastic microbead dangers studied by Environment Canada. Retrieved from: http://goo.gl/j2WeXt.

CTVNews. (July 30, 2015). Ottawa plans to ban microbeads over environmental concerns. Retrieved from: http://goo.gl/sMbRcB.


Revisiting Triclosan

Last November, we were part of a group of over 50 health and environmental non-profits organizations that signed onto a public statement in support of prohibiting the use of Triclosan (a harmful anti-microbial agent) in Canada.


Wondering what came of that? Us, too.

On July 27 of this year, we were part of a joint NGO letter urging the government to take action on Triclosan. Our letter advised the Government of Canada to finalize its decision on Triclosan and find the chemical toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,1999 (CEPA 1999). We reiterated our support for the prohibition of Triclosan in all products.

The draft risk assessment of Triclosan, which was completed in 2012, advised the government to declare the chemical toxic and be added to the Toxics Substances List. Over 3.5 years later, we’re still waiting for this to happen.


Our July letter comes on the heels of the Federal Government’s Third Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada, which showed the presence and quantity of contaminants present in Canadians.

Results were sampled from 5,800 Canadians aged 3-79. Triclosan, one of the harmful chemicals measured in the sample population, is one of the only toxic chemicals measured to have increased in our population since the last study.  Both BPA and lead levels, for example, have decreased.


What is Triclosan?

Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical linked to endocrine disruption, meaning it interferes with hormone function.1 It’s primarily used in antibacterial soaps and boady washes, toothpastes, and other cosmetic products. The chemical passes through the skin and can be irritating to the skin and eyes.

Environmentally, it has been noted that Triclosan quite possibility causes long-term adverse effects in aquatic environments. Triclosan is bioaccumulative and persistent – meaning it takes a long time to break down and subsequently builds up in the environment.1


So why isn’t it banned yet?

Good question. Primarily, the challenge comes because Triclosan is so widely used. The amount of Triclosan that can be used in products is actually quite limited, but since it is bioaccumulative and toxic, it quickly adds up in our bodies and natural environments.1

Yet, leading scientists and health professionals have called for urgent action on Triclosan, due to increasing antibiotic resistance and the ongoing toxic effects in the environment – particularly in Canadian lakes and rivers.2

Some major retailers, inclugin Loblaws, are promising to remove triclosan from all products by 2018 (Loblaws has also promised to remove microbeads and phthalates by this date as well).3


We hope our recent letter helps push Triclosan towards being banned in Canada, for the health of Canadians and all of our watersheds.



1. David Suzuki Foundation. Triclosan. 2015. Retrieved from: http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/loblaw-companies-ltd-removing-micro-beads-triclosan-phthalates-from-beauty-products-by-2018.

2. Health Canada. July 15, 2015. Government of Canada releases latest data on exposure to environmental chemicals. Retrieved from: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1571077/government-of-canada-releases-latest-data-on-exposure-to-environmental-chemicals.

3. Friend, David. June 11, 2015. Loblaw Companies Ltd removing microbeads, Triclosan, phthalates, from beauty products by 2018. Retrieved from: http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/loblaw-companies-ltd-removing-micro-beads-triclosan-phthalates-from-beauty-products-by-2018.