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Great Lakes Article:

EPA urged to improve Great Lakes water
Associated Press
Published on 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 Initiative.

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.

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