Lake Erie Binational Site
Lakewide Management Plans
Lake Erie Binational Site
Beneficial Use Impairment Assessment
Table of Contents
- What Is Beneficial Use Impairment Assessment?
- Impairment Assessment Reports
- Beneficial Use Impairment Assessment Subcommittee
- Lake Erie LaMP Technical Subcommittees
- Summary of Beneficial
Use Impairment Conclusions Chart
(PDF 32Kb, 4 pages)
In September 1994, the Lake Erie LaMP Management Committee charged the Beneficial Use Impairment Assessment Subcommittee to initiate a beneficial use impairment assessment with an initial focus on the 14 beneficial use impairments listed in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). (An impairment of beneficial uses means a change in the chemical, physical or biological integrity of the Great Lakes System sufficient to cause any of the 14 conditions outlined in Annex 2.1.c of the GLWQA.)
Beneficial use impairments are being assessed within the waters of Lake Erie, including open waters, nearshore areas, embayments and river mouths. The upstream margin of the lake effect zone is used to define the geographic extent of impairments in rivers tributary to Lake Erie. The lake effect zone is the area where the waters of the Lake and river are mixed.
Each report will identify the standards used in the assessment; the years that information is available; and the years used in the assessment. It will also identify references used; locations of known impairments; and causes and or sources of the impairment if known. Any data gaps and additional questions that must be addressed before further assessment can be accomplished is also discussed.
Some impairments can be measured against existing standards while others will require development of assessment criteria during the LaMP development process.
What Is Beneficial Use Impairment Assessment?
Just like our physical bodies, after years of wear and tear, Lake Erie is getting a "check up". In other words we need to examine Lake Erie and find out what the problems are. This is the primary purpose of the Beneficial Use Impairment Assessment or BUIA.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement lists 14 beneficial use impairments against which the health of the Great Lakes are to be measured. These impairments and associated criteria are:
restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption - When contaminant levels in fish or wildlife populations exceed current standards, objectives or guidelines, or public health advisories are in effect for human consumption of fish and wildlife.
tainting of fish and wildlife flavor - When ambient water quality standards, objectives, or guidelines for the anthropogenic substance(s) known to cause tainting are being exceeded or survey results have identified tainting of fish and wildlife flavor.
degraded fish and wildlife populations - When fish or wildlife management programs have identified degraded fish or wildlife populations. In addition, this use will be considered impaired when relevant, field-validated, fish and wildlife bioassays with appropriate quality assurance/quality controls confirm significant toxicity from water column or sediment contaminants.
fish tumors or other deformities - When the incidence rates of fish tumors or other deformities exceed rates at unimpacted control sites or when survey data confirm the presence of neoplastic or preneoplastic liver tumors in bullheads or suckers.
bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems - When wildlife survey data confirm the presence of deformities (e.g. cross-bill syndrome) or other reproductive problems (e.g. egg-shell thinning) in sentinel wildlife species.
degradation of benthos - When the benthic macroinvertebrate community structure significantly diverges from unimpacted control sites of comparable physical and chemical characteristics. In addition, this use will be considered impaired when toxicity (as defined by relevant, field-validated bioassays with appropriate quality assurance/quality controls) of sediment associated contaminants at a site is significantly higher than controls.
restrictions on dredging activities - When contaminants in sediments exceed standards, criteria, or guidelines such that there are restrictions on dredging or disposal activities.
eutrophication or undesirable algae - When there are persistent water quality problems (e.g. dissolved oxygen depletion of bottom waters, nuisance algal blooms or accumulation, decreased water clarity, etc.) attributed to cultural eutrophication.
restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems - When treated drinking water supplies are impacted to the extent that: 1) densities of disease- causing organisms or concentrations of hazardous or toxic chemicals or radioactive substances exceed human health standards, objectives or guidelines; 2) taste and odor problems are present; or 3) treatment needed to make raw water suitable for drinking is beyond the standard treatment used in comparable portions of the Great Lakes which are not
degraded (i.e. settling, coagulation, disinfection).
beach closings - When waters, which are commonly used for total-body contact or partial-body contact recreation, exceed standards, objectives, or guidelines for such use.
degradation of aesthetics - When any substance in water produces a persistent objectionable deposit, unnatural color or turbidity, or unnatural odor (e.g. oil slick, surface scum).
added costs to agriculture and industry - When there are additional costs required to treat the water prior to use for agricultural purposes (i.e. including, but not limited to, livestock watering, irrigation and crop-spraying) or industrial purposes (i.e. intended for commercial or industrial applications and noncontact food processing).
degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton - When phytoplankton or zooplankton community structure significantly diverges from unimpacted control sites of comparable physical and chemical characteristics. In addition, this use will be considered impaired when relevant, field-validated, phytoplankton or zooplankton bioassays (e.g. Ceriodaphnia; algal fractionation bioassays) with appropriate quality assurance/quality controls confirm toxicity in ambient waters.
loss of fish and wildlife habitat - When fish or wildlife management goals have not been met as a result of loss of fish or wildlife habitat due to a perturbation in the physical, chemical or biological integrity of the Boundary Waters, including wetlands.
For each beneficial use impairment assessment completed to date, two documents are available: a technical report (20 to 200 pages in length) with full details about how the assessment was done, and a fact sheet, which is a summary (2 to 3 pages) of the full report.