Great Lakes protection falls short
Government finds initiative fails to address runoff from
cities and farms and rain pollution.
Published August 29, 2005
A decade-old federal push to keep some of the worst toxic
chemicals out of the Great Lakes can't do much more to
control pollution levels because it doesn't include some
of the biggest sources of pollution, a government audit
The review, released by the U.S. Government Accountability
Office, Congress' investigative arm, said the government's
Great Lakes Initiative has "limited potential to
improve overall water quality in the Great Lakes"
because it does not address runoff from cities and farms
and pollution that rains down after it's released into
the air. Those are now the largest sources of new toxic
pollution in the Lakes.
"It's very clear from what the GAO is saying that
more needs to be done to control pollution," said
Scott MacFarlane, a spokesman for Rep. Candice Miller,
R-Harrison Township. Miller was among the lawmakers who
asked the GAO to review the program's effectiveness.
"Steps have been taken, and they've helped,"
MacFarlane said. "But clearly there's much more that
needs to be done."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the
Great Lakes Initiative in 1995 as part of a push to put
far tighter limits on discharges of mercury, PCBs and
other chemicals that pose a particular risk to the lakes.
It is among a batch of state and federal laws and international
agreements aimed at controlling pollution in the Lakes.
The initiative was aimed mainly at discharges from factories
and other industrial facilities; much of the responsibility
for enforcing those rules has been turned over to the
eight states that border the Lakes. In its review, the
GAO also said federal regulators had not done enough to
ensure that states enforce the rules consistently. Some
states, it said, have given polluters permission to discharge
chemicals at levels that exceed federal limits.
Environmentalists said the report illustrates the need
to do more to stop polluting the Great Lakes.
"It certainly shows we haven't finished the job
of dealing with toxic pollution, even with point sources,"
said Emily Green, head of the Sierra Club's Great Lakes
In a written response to the report, EPA Assistant Administrator
Benjamin H. Grumbles acknowledged that "non-point"
sources of pollution, such as runoff and farm waste, are
to blame for many of the water quality problems in the
Lakes. But he said lawmakers did not give the agency the
authority to regulate those discharges.
You can reach Brad Heath at (313) 222-2563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.