Reports suggest there's no time to waste in updating Great Lakes standards
The Canadian Press
Published February 19, 2008
TORONTO - Governments have been presented with report after report suggesting there's no time to waste in developing a new binational agreement to better protect the Great Lakes.
An International Joint Commission report in December 2006 recommending how to update the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement said Canada and the United States have been "good, but not exemplary" stewards of the lakes.
The commission concluded that the future of the Great Lakes is "uncertain" and that a number of current crises have the potential to cause irreparable damage.
"We and others have made a clear case for accelerated progress toward protecting, restoring and maintaining water quality in the Great Lakes," the report states.
"Significant challenges persist and new ones are emerging."
Research by more than 200 scientists led to a December 2005 report that found many trouble zones in the lakes are at or beyond the "tipping point."
"If not addressed with great urgency, the Great Lakes system may experience further - and potentially irreversible - damage," says the report, entitled Prescription for Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Avoiding the Tipping Point of Irreversible Changes.
The scientists point out that the original agreement signed in 1972 led to reductions of phosphorous in the lakes, improvements in several water quality indicators, and the delisting of some officially designated areas of concern - positive results that give hope that more progress is possible.
A more current report released in January by Great Lakes United outlines a long list of pressing issues that need urgent attention if permanent damage is to be avoided.
Several species are developing unusual reproductive problems linked to their habitats, and toxins in fish and wildlife are being found at higher levels, resulting in consumption advisories.
Increasing numbers of invasive species are also making their way into the lakes and pushing out native species, water levels are dropping, and more than 90 billion litres of untreated sewage are being dumped into the Great Lakes every year.
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