EPA cleanup plan minus money equals slim
Detroit Free Press
Christie Whitman stood in Muskegon the other day and
announced a great plan for the Great Lakes. Unfortunately,
she didn't put any lousy money behind it.
How, for example, can the head of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency promise to cut PCB levels in fish by
25 percent in five years if there's no extra money for
PCB cleanup? How will anyone even know if the levels have
dropped without money to augment the limited testing done
by the state?
It's interesting that Whitman chose PCBs. PCBs in fish
declined dramatically after the chemical was banned in
the late '70s, and have now leveled off. The bigger challenges
are controlling mercury emissions so they stop falling
into the lakes and working their way up the food chain,
and cleaning up big chemical messes like the so-called
"black lagoon" in the Detroit River. Whitman wants hot
spots cleaned up by 2025, but where's the money?
Restoring or fixing 100,000 acres of wetlands, another
goal, will cost money that Michigan doesn't have, and
probably none of the other seven Great Lakes states do
The one goal that doesn't require a lot of tax dollars
-- stopping new invasive species -- is the one where Whitman's
agency has the least influence. Either Congress or the
states along with either Canada or its provinces must
implement strict controls on ballast water for ships.
Negotiations with shipping companies are only inching
along, as are tests of how to kill any pests trying to
hitchhike into the Great Lakes.
More and more experts say that alien species now pose
the biggest known threat to the lakes. Chemical pollution
can be cured, eventually. Biological pollution is forever.
But even Whitman's weak goal -- not ending invasions,
but reducing them, by 2010 -- looks pretty hopeless.
Whitman's plan says a lot of the right things about
how to protect the Great Lakes. But the problems aren't
new. Lack of plans and goals isn't the obstacle. Lack
of money is.