The Bay of Sept-Îles has received an overall good rating in the final report of a major environmental study.
But lead researchers in the four-year, three-phase study say more investigation and monitoring is required to ensure the bay’s water, sediments and ecosystem stay healthy.
“Human activities since the first trading post in 1661 and more intensively since 1949 with the arrival of the mining industry have led to higher concentrations of certain potential parameters of concern than those found in nature,” reads the phase-3 report by the Environmental Observatory for the Bay of Sept-Îles, which was released in December.
Still, the report gave water in the bay a B rating, meaning its chemical, physical, biological and radiological characteristics are “of satisfactory quality that is suitable for most uses, with concentrations that rarely deviate from natural or desirable levels.”
In regard to the quality of sediments on the bay floor, the report’s conclusions from its assessments of collected samples range from “no action required” in most areas to “avoid the presence of new sources of contamination” in those areas where the loading and shipping have been most intensive.
“We were very pleased with the way the study was done and with its findings,” says Manon D’Auteuil, Director of engineering and sustainable development at the Port of Sept-Îles. “There is a lot of local and even international interest in this project.”
Created in 2013 as a joint project involving multiple community partners, notably the City and the Port, the observatory was tasked with providing an environmental overview of quality of the environment and ecosystems in and around the Bay of Sept-Îles.
Led by Dr. Julie Carrière, Director of the Institut Nordique de Recherche en Environnement et Santé au Travail—or INREST—a local non-profit that does research related to environmental sciences and occupational health, the three phases of a $1.2 million study focused on sampling campaigns including physical, chemical and microbiological analysis and data collection for different parameters.
The third phase, which cost roughly $650,000—a third of which came from several mining companies and the Quebec government—began in 2016 and took two years. It mostly involved on site sampling, analyzing and crunching the data collected during the three phases to produce profiles of the physiochemical and microbiological makeup of water in the bay, sediment characterization and particle size, and to gauge the health of Zostera (a family 15 species of seagrass like eelgrass), seaweed and macroalgae living in the bay. Also, marine mammals were investigated as well as marine currents and ice covers.
The collections and analysis involved some 40 experts, university professors, graduate and postdoctoral researchers, technicians and biologists.
In addition to its findings on the current health of the bay, the final report suggested that further research is needed on different parameters such as water and sediment quality, marine currents, ice covers to municipal and industrial water discharges and marine mammals in order to get a better understanding of the environmental dynamics at work in the bay and their effects over time.