Workshop and symposium to discuss emerging marine and coastal pollution
On Oct. 16-17, the inaugural Persistent, Emerging and Organic PoLlution in the Environment (PEOPLE) Workshop and Symposium was held in St. John’s.
The workshop and symposium officially established the PEOPLE Network as a unique pan-Canadian/global hub/platform for national and international researchers, industry experts and government regulators focused on the persistent and emerging pollutants, particularly in cold marine and coastal environments.
PEOPLE consists of leading researchers from Memorial University and Dalhousie University in Atlantic Canada; Laval University, McGill University McMaster University and the University of Ottawa from eastern Canada; the University of Manitoba, Regina University, University of Alberta and the University of Calgary in central Canada; and the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria from the Western region. Internaitonal institutions were also represented, such as the University of California Berkeley, U.S.A.; Peking University in China; the University College of Dublin, Ireland; the University of Warwick, U.K.; and Environmental Institute, Slovak Republic. PEOPLE has also engaged with over 15 partners from public and private sectors and communities, including indigenous groups.
Dr. Bing Chen, founding leader of the Northern Region Persistent Organic Pollution Control (NRPOP) Laboratory, co-chaired the PEOPLE 2017 workshop with Dr. Kenneth Lee, national senior scientific advisor, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The symposium was held on the second day and was co-hosted with the 2017 Atlantic Symposium of the Canadian Association on Water Quality (CAWQ) and the 2017 Annual Conference of International Society for Environmental Information Sciences (ISEIS).
Memorial researchers Drs. Helen Zhang (co-chair), Faisal Khan (co-chair), Amgad Hussein, Tahir Husain, Joseph Darario, and Ashlee Cunsolo helped organize the symposium.
The event was a huge success with more than 60 delegates coming together to discuss the network’s vision, goals, future strategies and potential funding opportunities.
“By targeting the persistent and emerging pollutants with fast-growing concerns, PEOPLE entails natural and social sciences, facilitates collaborative research and development and training, and advances science and technology through integrated approaches and synergetic efforts, leading to long-term benefits to Canadian and global communities and the environment," said Dr. Chen. "The event provided a great opportunity for researchers – particularly the Network members – and students to disseminate their findings and gain a better understanding of the needs of key stakeholders, which include regulators, practitioners and indigenous groups."
Many persistent and emerging pollutants, such as petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides, disinfection by products, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, chemical surfactants, engineered nanoparticles and microplastics, are toxic, bio-accumulative, carcinogenic and currently not included in regulatory guidelines. Understanding their fate, behavior, environmental and health impacts in cold and coastal environments and developing pollution prevention, control and remediation technologies are essential for evidence-based policy/decision making and sustainable development.
The workshop and symposium identified the knowledge and technical gaps, and brought direct benefits to academia, government and industry, as well as communities and especially indigenous people in terms of research and development, policy making, technology transfer, education and training, and public engagement.
Delegates shared knowledge and discussed strategies, which included identifying critical short- and long-term impacts caused by persistent and emerging pollutants in cold waters and harsh environments. They also discussed possible the research needs in developing more effective solutions in prevention, control and remediation as well as in mitigating ecological, health and social-economic impacts.
The network is seeking funding for core operations and collaborative research and training activities with special meetings already planned for 2018 to focus on the applications process. Key funding agencies have been engaged. Another important outcome of the event highlighted the need to engage with indigenous communities, particularly in Labrador, to gain an understanding of their needs with regards to emerging pollution.
“Congratulations to Dr. Chen and team for establishing such an important network,” said Dr. Dennis Peters, acting dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “With its world-class research expertise and facilities, they are supporting sustainable development of our energy and oceans industries and helping to protect our marine and coastal environments, particularly in cold regions and harsh environments.”
Dr. Chen is especially appreciative of the event sponsors, which included the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada; the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; Genome Atlantic; the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science; and the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Association, and the strong support received from Memorial University; the federal and provincial governments; the City of St. John's; the local industry; as well as the communities in the North.
The next PEOPLE event is planned for summer 2018.
With files from Weiyun Lin.