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Great Lakes Article:

Added federal funding for Great Lakes justified
Ohio News-Messenger


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 year.

Farm runoff, faulty septic systems and outdated sewer systems all contribute to the problem.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 health problems.

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.

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