About the RAP

Areas of Concern and Remedial Action Plans

Toronto and Region is one of 43 locations around the Great Lakes where local environmental degradation may be causing harm to the wider Great Lakes system. These locations, referred to as Areas of Concern (AOCs), are located in Canada (12 sites), the United States (26 sites), and in some cases are shared between the two countries (5 sites).

map of Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Click on map to view a full-sized version.

Areas of Concern were formally recognized by the governments of Canada and the United States in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) amendments of 1987 (Annex 2, GLWQA). This Agreement committed the governments of each country to clean up Areas of Concern within their respective jurisdictions.

The clean-up, or remediation, of an Area of Concern occurs through a mandated process called a Remedial Action Plan, or RAP. An individualized RAP is required for each Area of Concern, and an Area of Concern cannot be considered remediated until all stages of the RAP have been completed and documented. The RAP documentation process occurs at the end of each of the three stages:

Stage 1: Environmental Conditions and Problem Definition

Stage 2: Goals, Options, and Recommendations

Stage 3: Evaluation of Remedial Measures and Confirmation of Restoration of Uses


What makes an Area of Concern?

The status of an Area of Concern (AOC) is determined by assessing the state of local environmental conditions against fourteen different Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs), as identified in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Annex 2, 1987). Each Beneficial Use Impairment describes a human or ecological use of the ecosystem that has been lost or impaired as the result of environmental degradation; an AOC is therefore considered impaired when local conditions meet the descriptions of one or more BUIs.

Who is responsible for Remedial Action Plans?

In Ontario, the responsibilities for RAP progress and Area of Concern remediation are shared by the federal and provincial governments through the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, or COA.  The administration and implementation of a RAP, however, includes a variety of departments at all levels of government, non-governmental organizations, academia, business and industry, and the public.  A local RAP team tracks environmental conditions, activities, and outcomes relevant to the RAP.

The Toronto and Region Area of Concern

The Toronto and Region Area of Concern consists of six watersheds stretching from the Rouge River in the east to Etobicoke Creek in the west.  This area encompasses 2000 square kilometers of land, 42 km of waterfront, eleven municipal jurisdictions, and over 4 million residents.

The Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan

Stage I of the formal Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan was initiated in 1987, and the Stage I report Environmental Conditions and Problem Definition was released in 1989.

The Toronto and Region RAP Principles and Goals (the criteria for removing Toronto and Region from the list of AOCs) were provided in the Stage 2 report Clean Waters, Clear Choices (1994).

Toronto and Region is currently in Stage 3 (implementation) of the RAP process.  Three major interim progress reports, Clean Waters, Healthy Habitats: 2001 RAP Progress Report (2001), Moving Forward: 2007 RAP Progress Report (2009), Within Reach: 2015 RAP Progress Report (2016) and have been issued that detail environmental monitoring results, achievements in remediation initiatives, as well as how conditions in Toronto and Region’s compare against the Beneficial Use Impairment criteria. A full listing of available Toronto and Region RAP updates is available here.

Although the challenges are many, the Toronto and Region RAP team believes that completing all restoration actions by 2020 is within reach.


What is the status of beneficial use impairments in Toronto?

Beneficial Use Impairment
Status in 2016
Eutrophication or undesirable algae Impaired
Beach closings Impaired
Restrictions on fish or wildlife consumption More study needed to confirm if not impaired
Degradation of benthos Not impaired
Restrictions on dredging activities Not impaired
Loss of fish and wildlife habitat Impaired
Degradation of fish and wildlife populations Impaired
Degradation of aesthetics Impaired
Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities Requires further assessment
Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems Not impaired
Fish tumours or other deformities Not impaired
Restrictions-drinking water consumption-taste/odor problems Not impaired
Added costs to agriculture or industry Not impaired
Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor Not impaired