Advisories on Great Lakes inconsistent,
By John C. Kuehner
Ohio and five other Great Lakes states measure water quality
differently, which leaves boaters, swimmers and anglers
at risk, an environmental group said Wednesday.
The nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project released
a report concluding that beaches and fish considered to
be safe in one state may not necessarily be considered
so in another. The group says that Ohio, Michigan, Illinois,
Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin use inconsistent methods
and that uniform fishing and swimming advisories are needed.
"I don't think it's too much to ask that the yardsticks
they are using to measure water quality are objective
and consistent across the states," said Ilan Levin,
the report's author. "I think people expect the information
they are getting from government officials is accurate
and they can rely on it. But that's not the case."
Levin looked at biannual water quality monitoring reports
filed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency
in 2002. They were compared, and inconsistencies were
found, he said.
That's not a new problem, or just a state problem, Levin
said. It is also a failure with the U.S. EPA, which presents
a distorted and blurred picture of water quality based
on state reports.
No state stands out as having more strict or lax methods.
Some are stronger in monitoring water quality at beaches
than they are at monitoring for pollution in fish, he
Ohio is a national leader for measuring the presence
and diversity of fish, bugs and other aquatic life in
water, which is an important indicator of water quality.
But Ohio's fish consumption warnings are weaker than Michigan's.
Michigan warns its residents not to eat carp or catfish
of any size if caught in Lake Erie. It also warns women
and children not to eat whitefish of any size if caught
in Lake Erie.
But Ohio warns people not to eat Lake Ere catfish longer
than 16 inches. Smaller catfish can be eaten six times
a year, the state says, and a meal of carp or whitefish
can be eaten monthly.
Ohio EPA spokeswoman Linda Oros said the state has a
good water quality program.
But one thing to remember is that fish move from one
location to another.
"If I catch the same species of fish standing on
a shoreline right next to you, it is entirely possible
that it has followed a different course to get to that
spot, and has an entirely different chemical absorption
than a fish swimming right beside it," she said.