federal funding for Great Lakes justified
Coincidentally, word that President Bush will ask Congress
for $45 million for Great Lakes cleanup in his 2005 budget
came down on the same day that it was reported that swimmers
at Lake Erie beaches were warned about bacteria levels more
than usual last year.
The warnings should serve as evidence of the continued
need to address potential and existing problems throughout
the Great Lakes waterways.
There were excessive bacteria readings at Ohio beaches
on 413 days in 2003, nearly 60 percent more than the previous
Farm runoff, faulty septic systems and outdated sewer
systems all contribute to the problem.
Warnings at beaches are usually aimed at children, elderly
and people with weak immune systems, but health officials
say even healthy adults should avoid swimming in those
areas for a day or two after warnings go up.
High bacteria levels can cause ear infections and mild
flu-like symptoms, including upset stomachs, diarrhea,
nausea and abdominal cramps.
Clearly, there's also the potential for even greater
And those warnings and any related health problems also
can have a major impact in the way of discouraging visitors
to local beaches and boating enthusiasts. It has the potential
to have a major economic impact.
That's why the proposed Great Lakes funding -- more than
four times the amount in this year's budget -- is an important
boon to this area and should be supported by area lawmakers
and public interest groups.
The money would be used to start or accelerate cleanup
of four to six rivers and harbors with severe contamination,
EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said. Cleanup grants would
be awarded through the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a measure
that passed Congress in 2002 and authorizes up to $50
million per year for cleanup projects through 2008.
Ohio has four areas of concern, including the Ashtabula
River, Black River, Cuyahoga River and Maumee River.
Cleveland and Toledo are beginning major projects to
repair their sewer systems, but such efforts take millions
and millions of dollars.
Since the health of the Great Lakes is important to the
entire ecosystem in the area, strong support for major
cleanup projects and for regular protection efforts are
clearly a responsibility of the federal government.