Protect the Great Lakes, an irreplaceable resource
South Bend Tribune (IN)
March 3, 2006
The Izaak Walton League of America recognizes that commercial navigation on the Great Lakes is an important form of commerce for the Great Lakes states, the United States, Canada and many foreign countries. Unfortunately, the ballast water discharged from oceangoing vessels passing through the Great Lakes contains invasive plants and animals and, sometimes, human pathogens that create significant changes to the Great Lakes ecosystem and are a potential threat to human health.
The league has adopted a policy on invasive species and the treatment of ballast water. Legislation is necessary to require the shipping industry to comply with the best available technology and management practices to remove or destroy non-native organisms in ballast water.
Economists from Grand Valley State University estimate the financial impact of existing invasive species ranges from $200 million to $5 billion per year, and that the economic benefit of oceangoing commerce over road and rail transport in the Great Lakes is only $55 million annually.
Ballast water is thought to be the source for zebra mussels, Eurasian ruffe, the round and tubenose gobies, spiny water fleas and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes. Some 160 other species of fish and invertebrates have also invaded the lakes, most since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959.
Professor Anthony Ricciardi of McGill University in Montreal asserts that a new invader is identified in the Great Lakes about every seven months. This is unacceptable. These invaders disrupt the natural reproduction of native fish and invertebrates, exacerbate botulinus toxin outbreaks which kill birds and animals and can spread to inland waters. The economic impact to the sport and commercial fisheries of the Great Lakes is estimated to be $4 billion annually.
The IWLA recommends the immediate use of chlorine for the treatment of all ballast water in ships entering the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence and in intra-lake vessels. The purpose of this treatment is to kill as many invasive plants, animals and pathogens as possible and to control their movement between the Great Lakes.
Studies show that using chlorine can remove more than 90 percent of aquatic invasive species when treated to a residual of 10 parts per million of sodium hypochlorite.
The league is aware of the toxic nature of chlorine and therefore believes that any sources used in its manufacture should be free of mercury emissions. Further, ballast water needs to be thoroughly dechlorinated before discharge. Also, tests for residual chlorine levels and neutralizing additives should be required to eliminate negative impacts on the Great Lakes.
The IWLA encourages the shipping industry to invest in research and development of technologies that may be more effective than chlorine treatment of ballast water, such as a shore-based treatment facility to treat ballast and tanker sediments.
To assure this, the IWLA supports the enactment of compatible laws by the Great Lakes states and the federal government requiring Clean Water Act discharge permits for the discharge of ballast water into the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable resource and we urge decision-makers and the shipping industry to address this problem now and take the necessary steps to protect this national treasure.
The Izaak Walton League was founded in Chicago in 1922 by 54 anglers dedicated to protecting the nation's natural resources from continued degradation. The Web site is www.iwla.org.
Jim Sweeney is a state and national director of the Izaak Walton League. He lives in Schererville.
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