EPA urged to improve Great Lakes water
Published on FortWayne.com on August 28, 2005
DETROIT – The U.S. Environmental Protection agency must
work harder to ensure stringent water quality standards
are fully implemented across the Great Lakes region, according
to a report released Friday.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress’
investigative arm, said while some progress has been made
in reducing Great Lakes pollution, more needs to be done
to enforce the standards set forth in the Great Lakes
The initiative, a set of water quality criteria issued
by the EPA, is designed to control toxic materials and
protect wildlife and human health. The eight Great Lakes
states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York,
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – are responsible for
implementing the criteria.
The GAO report found the initiative’s potential to improve
Great Lakes water quality is limited because it focuses
on point sources of pollution created by industry, which
are regulated, rather than non-point sources such as urban
and agricultural runoff.
The initiative also is limited because it allows the
use of flexible implementation procedures, which lets
facilities discharge pollutants at levels higher than
those set by the initiative’s water quality standards,
the GAO said.
The EPA said it generally agreed with the report’s findings
but argued that the GAO had overlooked a number of the
initiative’s benefits, such as its establishment of an
accurate way to determine point source limits for toxins.
Recommendations in the report included urging the EPA
to issue a set of standards for mercury, which accumulates
in fish and is a known cause of birth defects. In the
absence of federal criteria, the Great Lakes states have
implemented varying standards for mercury, the GAO said.
The EPA said in response it considers the individual
state standards for mercury to be similar to the standards
it drafted as part of the initiative. The EPA argued that
a mercury strategy would not improve consistency among
the states. The agency said it instead would work with
the states to help them reduce mercury pollution.
The GAO also said the EPA should develop and maintain
a Great Lakes Initiative Clearinghouse, a shared database
of criteria and information that would be used by the
states in developing water quality standards. The EPA
said it is creating the clearinghouse.