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Great Lakes Article:

Ottawa should respond promptly and constructively to the report of Johanne Gélinas, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, which details the faltering efforts to protect the Great Lakes and the entire basin draining into the St. Lawrence River.

For several decades, these water bodies were polluted by industry, farms and human sewage until they "reached a crisis point in the 1970s," Gélinas states in her annual report, released Tuesday.

While they have "improved dramatically," she rates four of the lakes, plus the St. Lawrence, as "mixed," while Lake Erie is "mixed deteriorating."

Gélinas makes 40 recommendations to revive government commitments to research and action.

David Schindler, Killam memorial professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, says study of new chemical pollutants is especially needed.

An Environment Canada pollution monitoring manager recently claimed the lakes "are much cleaner than they have been over the last 50 years," partly because of restricted pesticide use.

But Schindler says the lakes are receiving "a whole new suite of chemicals," including some with properties similar to dangerous PCBs.

Their concentration is unknown, he says. So is their effect, individually and in combination.

Schindler rates the auditor-general's office, where Gélinas works, as "the best federal government agency."

But he adds: "I don't think other departments give their reports the attention they deserve."

Gélinas's report implies a similar pessimism, urging better protection while noting "a sense of complacency, not urgency; resignation, not inspiration."

Our country is an object of envy around the world, for its immense fresh water supply.

We would deserve to be an object of international ridicule if we ignored Gélinas's call to revive and sustain a commitment to cleaner water in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin.

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