says Great Lakes cleanup going too slow
- Canada and the United States are moving too slowly to
clean up the five Great Lakes to ensure that the vast freshwater
system remains safe for drinking, swimming and fishing,
an international watchdog agency said.
In its biennial report, the International
Joint Commission, an independent body formed to make policy
recommendations to Ottawa and Washington, said the two countries
are making only slow progress on their pledge to restore
and maintain the chemical and biological integrity of the
Great Lakes Basin.
Gray, former Canadian deputy prime minister and chairman
of the Canadian section of the commission, said there
is "no evidence" that the basin's ecological system will
be restored within the next generation's life time.
think that this report is coming out at a time when the
public will demand a more aggressive response than may
have come in the past," Gray told reporters in a conference
its 99-page report, the commission singled out three pressing
issues: cleaning up toxic sediment, preventing the introduction
of invasive alien animal species such as Asian carp and
zebra mussels, and improving the monitoring of Basin's
continues to show toxic substances in part of the Great
Lakes ecosystem can injure human health and that the primary
pathway for exposure in the consumption of fish," Gray
and his U.S. counterpart, Dennis Shornack, said in a joint
statement accompanying the report.
substances, ranging from pesticides to heavy metals to
PCBs, that contaminate the Great Lakes ecosystem, threaten
human health, particularly that of children exposed in
the womb to chemicals ingested by their mothers through
GREATEST FRESHWATER SYSTEM
the earth's greatest freshwater system, the Great Lakes
- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario - are estimated
to hold one-fifth of the planet's drinkable surface water.
750 miles (1,200 km) from west to east, tracing a shoreline
of some 4,500 miles (7,240 km), the Great Lakes Basin
is home to one-tenth of the U.S. population and one-quarter
heavy industries such as iron and steel mills, auto-making
and paper plants, the region's ecosystem has long been
used to flush pollutants down through the St. Lawrence
River and into the Atlantic Ocean.
International Joint Commission was formed in 1909 and
was given new life 30 years ago under the Great Lakes
Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United
States. In 1987, the two countries decided to step up
the attack against Great Lakes pollution in an amendment
that focused on 43 "areas of concern."
the cleanup of the millions of cubic metres of contaminated
sediment at the bottom of urban harbors, tributary rivers
and nearshore areas has been hampered by "woefully inadequate
funding," Gray and Shornack said.
WATER SCANDAL RAISES QUESTIONS
U.S. and Canadian governments are expected to publish
formal responses to the report next year. In a statement
last week, Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson
said the Great Lakes are cleaner today than they have
been in 50 years.
is evidenced by the reestablishment of self-sustaining
populations, such as the lake trout in Lake Superior,"
he said, adding there is still work to be done.
members said those people living in the Great Lakes Basin
need answers to three key questions: Is water from the
Great Lakes safe to swim in? are the fish safe to eat?
Is the water safe to drink?
after the tainted groundwater scandal almost two years
ago that killed seven people and made some 2,000 sick
in the farming community of Walkerton, Ontario, other
questions are being raised about the safety of water in
and around the Basin's ecosystem.
have a critical need for more information on groundwater
quantity and quality," said Gail Krantzberg, of Ontario's
Ministry of Environment, who contributed to the report.