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Great Lakes Article:

Watersheds Threatened By Storm Water Runoff
Published November 3rd, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency and states in the Great Lakes region are failing to enforce storm water runoff regulations, leading to threats to wildlife habitat in the lakes’ watersheds, an environmental group said in a new report.

The report released by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that state agencies in the half-dozen states it reviewed can’t inspect even a fraction of the 20,000 storm water permits for industrial and construction sites.

The report claims runoff from those sites - including heavy metals, bacteria and other pollutants - is making its way into the regions’ streams and other waterways. When it gets there, said Ilan Levin, counsel for the EIP, the runoff is having a “devastating impact on wildlife.”

The group blames the problem on insufficient funding and staffing at state agencies in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio - the states examined in the report.

The report claims that when the state and the EPA issue storm water permits, they are neglecting the Clean Water Act’s anti-degradation requirements aimed at preventing environmental damage to lakes, streams and wetlands.

The group also claims that states and federal environment officials are “essentially turning a blind eye to increased pollution loading in both impaired and pristine watersheds.”

Barbara Skoglund, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the state is finalizing new rules that address the anti-degradation requirements.

As for the report’s finding that only a fraction of the permits are inspected, she said, “There are no state or federal requirements that everyone who has a permit has to get an inspection.”

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