Northeast Avalon Watersheds – Plastic Waste Reduction and Diversion Project
The Northeast Avalon region is the most densely populated area in Newfoundland and Labrador; it is also home to Canada’s windiest city (St. John’s) and is a region slow to make adaptations to dealing with waste. A recent garbage audit of provincial government offices by the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB) found that, on average, employees in the province’s Confederation Building produced over 1.5 kg of garbage a day, and after organics, the largest category of waste produced there included food and beverage packaging, plastic bags, and plastic cutlery.
Beyond the confines of this and other office buildings, where waste usually finds its way to the appropriate facilities, waste in this category has an outsized representation on our streets, in our ditches and in our waterways. Plastics, plasticised cardboard, styrofoam, and other petrochemical derived products are light, often flat, and often contain food residue, making them targets for redistribution by wildlife, the wind, or both. The combination of plentiful plastic waste that comes freely available to consumers with food and products, and often inadequate on-street garbage/recycling receptacles, makes for ongoing issues around the amount of garbage in our environment. When plastic debris enters waterways, it further exacerbates urban water quality by: a) leaching chemicals to the water, b) clogging water flows, c) reducing aquatic habitat for fish and invertebrates, d) being mistaken for food by vertebrate fauna, and e) lessening the enjoyment of the area.
This project will use two methods for removing garbage from two local watersheds – those of the Waterford and Virginia Rivers – in order to improve these target ecosystems and gather data on the types of locally generated garbage affecting our urban waterways. With this “trash data”, we will target ‘upstream’ sources of plastic pollution by engaging with local businesses on plastic packaging alternatives.
Throughout the summer, we will be organising clean-up events along the Waterford and Virginia Rivers with local schools, youth groups, community groups, or whoever else wants to roll up their sleeves with us! We will also be installing debris-collecting floating booms on each of these rivers during July and August to track and remove any floating debris making its way downstream. We’ll be helped out by a CCNL Green Team this summer, who will be coordinating and conducting clean-ups, monitoring our debris booms, keeping our “trash data” up-to-date and researching some plastic packaging alternatives for our business outreach activities this fall and winter.
If you’re involved with a community and/or youth group, and you’d like help organising a clean-up activity, or if you would like to help us by contributing some “trash data”, get in touch with us!
ALSO, if you’re involved with a Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, or other type of business group and you’d like to hear about alternatives to plastic packaging, let us know and we’ll be happy to present at one of your meetings!
Shoreline Environmental Baseline Surveys in Placentia Bay, NL: A shoreline characterization and assessment of biogeochemistry, nutrients, coliforms, and hydrocarbons
Placentia Bay, on the Southeast coast of Newfoundland is formed by the Burin Peninsula on the west and the Avalon Peninsula on the East, and is the largest bay in Newfoundland. It has been identified as a Priority Area for Integrated Management Planning by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in part due to its status as one of Canada’s largest marine oil handling areas. This coastal area is critical to the future economic development of Newfoundland and Labrador for marine activities such as commercial fishing and aquaculture, fabrication, refining, transportation, and tourism potential. The unique geomorphology of the coast and influence of Gulf Stream waters make Placentia Bay productive habitat for marine life. This marine ecosystem is home to hundreds of species, and has provided a sustainable livelihood for indigenous people and settlers for hundreds of years. Sustainable development in this area relies upon an understanding of the health and condition of the Placentia Bay marine and coastal environment, and baseline data is an important first step in detecting changes related to management and external impacts.
NAACAP’s role in Placentia Bay is to fill a recognised data-gap by collecting and supplying baseline data for one of the six important marine ecosystem areas in the country that currently experience a high volume of traffic within the Federal Government’s Oceans Protection Plan.
Map of Real-Time Marine Traffic in Placentia Bay (source: marinetraffic.com)
To provide scientific data pertaining to the current state of the Placentia Bay, NAACAP is embarking upon a Shoreline Environmental Baseline Program focused on assessing shoreline character and seawater properties. The sampling program will be carried out at 8 representative coastal sites around the Bay, 4-times per year, over a 3 ½ -year period from October 2018 to March 2022.
NAACAP is partnering with Dr. Rachel Sipler (CRC, Chemical Oceanographer) of the Ocean Science Centre, Memorial University, the Chemical Analysis and Microbiology Laboratory at Marine Institute, Melanie Irvine, Project Geologist with the Geological Survey of NL. Together, we will be collecting and analyzing data on:
- The sensitivity of select beaches to erosion, storm surges, and petroleum contamination, and how these characteristics change over time.
- Nearshore biogeochemistry and nutrient levels at sites around Placentia Bay at times corresponding with high and low freshwater inflow periods. We will use a sonde probe and taking seawater samples for analysis in the lab, looking specifically at:
- Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC)
- pH calculated from Total Inorganic Carbon (TIC) and Total Alkalinity (TAlk)
- Dissolved Oxygen (DO)
- Total Dissolved Nitrogen (TDN)
- Nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, nitrite, urea, phosphate, silica)
- Coliform bacteria
- Total Hydrocarbon (THC) levels. We will collect, process, and analyze barnacles, which are long-lived sessile filter-feeding invertebrates that tend to bioaccumulate marine contaminants and are useful bioindicators
The results of this project will not only provide a publicly open source of data that can characterize ecosystems, but may also support evidence-based decision-making, such as assessments for marine spatial planning around conservation and the cumulative effects of anthropogenic activities. This baseline data will help differentiate between general background levels or conditions in the marine environment and responses to increased anthropogenic activity or climate change, and NAACAP looks forward to contributing to building capacity of key parties to collect environmental data as part of the implementation of the Oceans Protection Plan.
Enhancement of an Urban Wetland, Lundrigan’s Marsh, St. John’s, NL
Lundrigan’s Marsh in St. John’s is a 32 hectare cattail marsh, of which approximately 23 hectares is a management area under a Habitat Stewardship Agreement signed between the City of St. John’s and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2004. Lundrigan’s Marsh is a component of the Virginia River system, and is very much an urban wetland, being completely surrounded by commercial and industrial land uses. NAACAP has received funding for a project focusing on this marsh from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Wetland Conservation Fund. There has not been much formal scientific information collected from the marsh recently; this project will collect data that will help to assess the condition of the marsh and determine future conservation efforts needed. Also, planting of native vegetation will “soften the edges” between the marsh habitat and the surrounding land uses.
NAACAP is very excited to have many engaged partners for this project, including those who were involved in conservation efforts that led to the signing of the Habitat Stewardship Agreement in 2004. Project partners include: Ducks Unlimited Canada, Stewardship Association of Municipalities (SAM), Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), the provincial Wildlife Division, the City of St. John’s, the MUN Botanical Garden, the departments of Geography and Chemistry at Memorial University, Conservation Corps NL, and Fishing for Success.