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Great Lakes Article:

Audit: Great Lakes protection falls short
Government finds initiative fails to address runoff from cities and farms and rain pollution.
Detroit News
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 found.

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 program.

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 bheath@detnews.com.

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