Great Lakes report warns of another
CBC Health and Science News
Published September 14th, 2004
WINDSOR, ONT. - Unless water treatment plants are upgraded,
millions of people who live around the Great Lakes could
face a tainted water disaster like the one in Walkerton,
Ont., that killed seven people, a new report warns.
The Great Lakes supply drinking water to 40 million people..
The International Joint Commission released its 12th biennial
report on Great Lakes water quality on Monday.
The commission's report to the Canadian and U.S. governments
points to a number of ongoing threats to the Great Lakes,
which provide drinking water for 40 million people.
"Increases in population, increases in urbanization
and increases in factory farming mean that new treatment
facilities will have to be developed in addition to what's
there already," said Herb Gray, the Canadian co-chair
of the commission.
The effects of disease-causing agents like bacteria are
another concern for the commission.
"The [Walkerton] incident demonstrates that even
one system failure can impose enormous monetary as well
as tragic human costs," the report said. "If
the U.S. and Canada do not invest in their aging water
infrastructure systems, the potential for more outbreaks
of waterborne diseases will increase."
This past summer, nearly 900 people reported gastrointestinal
illnesses after visiting a tourist island on the American
side of Lake Erie.
The cause of the outbreak hasn't been determined but
pathogens in the water have been known to cause similar
Engineers explore treatment options
An international team of researchers is studying ways
to use ozone to break down pharmaceuticals in untreated
"Ozone is known to be the strongest disinfectant
to inactivate pathogens," said Saad Jasim, director
of water quality at the Windsor Utilities Commission.
The city of Windsor uses ozone to treat its drinking
water, which exceeds safety regulations, Jasim said.
The commission is interested in studying the ozone treatment
option, said Gray.
Commission officials also said governments need to protect
drinking water from:
Airborne mercury and PCBs that are linked to neural development
Invasive species like the zebra mussel.
The release of the report comes during the first major
overhaul in 17 years of the Canada-U.S. water quality
agreement, which was first signed in 1978.
Written by CBC News Online staff