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Great Lakes Article:

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Western end of Lake Erie a PCB hotspot

London Free Press
WINDSOR -- While levels of PCB contamination in Lake Erie have dropped in recent years, the southwestern end continues to have far higher contamination levels than anywhere else in the lake, say Environment Canada officials.

That area includes the lake's main tributary, the Detroit River, and all the smaller streams, creeks and channels that flow into the river, Chris Marvin said at a conference at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

"Studied over a decade and even dating back as far as the early 1970s, there's no question the concentration of PCB contamination has been in marked decline," Marvin, a research chemist, said yesterday.

"Part of the reason can be traced to the ban on PCBs in the 1970s, but there's also been a more responsible stewardship regarding PCBs from the general public and from industry, which has also contributed to the decline."

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a family of 209 chemical compounds no longer made in Canada or the U.S.

High exposure can result in liver damage and can sometimes affect the nervous system and cause numbness, weakness and tingling in limbs.

The higher concentration of industry surrounding the western basin of the lake has a direct impact on contamination levels, which decrease as samples are taken further north and east, said Scott Painter of Environment Canada.

"And those concentrations have been steadily declining for the past 30 years," said Painter. "We're close to achieving threshold levels so there's no question we are going in the right direction."

Almost 20 speakers from several Canadian and American agencies were expected to speak at the conference.

"Collectively, various agencies have spent more than $100 million trying to clean up contamination in the lakes," said Doug Haffner, director of the Great Lakes Institute. "We're hoping by the end of this conference we'll have some idea if we're succeeding and where additional work needs to be done."
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