Lakes panel identifies 7 themes in pollution report
By Tom Henry
Seven air pollution themes affecting the Great Lakes region
were identified yesterday for the United States and Canada
by an international government panel known for its outspoken
views on the environment.
The report, issued by the U.S.-Canada International Joint
Commission, aims to synthesize far-reaching and complex
scientific data in layman’s terms. In doing so, the commission
hopes to inspire the two nations - and all their multiple
state and local jurisdictions - to get on the same page
in terms of addressing fish-consumption advisories and
other health impacts.
"The messages need to be consistent," said
John McDonald, an IJC staffer who serves as secretary
to the commission’s international air quality advisory
The IJC, best known for forging a U.S.-Canada agreement
in 1972 that led to many of the region’s modern sewage
controls and industrial limits on water pollution discharges,
draws from such advisory boards in helping the two countries
create policy for resolving boundary water issues.
The new report says, among other things, that the threat
of mercury emissions is as great as ever. And, contrary
to some previous efforts, its focus goes beyond the traditional
sources of that pollutant - coal-fired power plants in
the Midwest - by drawing attention to emissions coming
from as far away as Asia.
"We’re more and more aware that some of our pollution
is coming into North America from other areas, particularly
the Far East," Mr. McDonald said. "The board
doesn’t want at all to detract from efforts in North America.
But we’re all aware that China is an emerging economy."
The inclusion of such material speaks to the notion of
how many airborne pollutants can have a global impact.
It also could help build a case for exporting some of
North America’s pollution-control technology overseas,
Regional smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions have shown
hardly any decline over the past decade, despite millions
spent to improve coal plants. There are more people, requiring
power plants to generate more energy. Plus, there are
more vehicles on the road, he said.
Acid rain - long a sore point in U.S.-Canada relations
- has gotten worse in some parts of eastern Canada. The
term refers to precipitation that is overly acidic because
of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide
emitted from Midwestern sources.
"There are pretty compelling reasons for both the
Great Lakes’ ecological health and our own health for
addressing these pollutants," Kurt Waltzer, of the
Ohio Environmental Council, said. The activist group is
among Ohio’s most vocal on air pollution issues.
Mr. Waltzer said he was pleased the report addressed
some small, traditionally overlooked sources such as diesel-powered
construction equipment, plus emissions from some other
vehicles, such as boats, ships, and planes.
Declines in some persistent toxic chemicals are being
offset by other pollutants, the report said.
"The pollutant that really leapt out is ammonia.
There’s a good deal of it in the environment," Mr.
McDonald said. He said it is increasing in the United
States, particularly the Midwest.
Excessive amounts of ammonia can cause algae.