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Great Lakes Article:

Bush signs bill that may help clean up rivers
Douglas Turner

Washington Bureau Chief


WASHINGTON - The Niagara and Buffalo rivers might get some help from an important antipollution bill signed Wednesday by President Bush.

The legislation will provide $50 million a year for five years to clean up
toxic sediment from the Great Lakes and tributaries previously designated "areas of concern."

But cash-strapped states or localities have to come up with 35 percent of the cash needed.

"This is something we have worked for for a long time, at least 10 years," said Reg Gilbert of Great Lakes United, a nonpartisan environmental research group based in Buffalo.

Gilbert said the cost of removing industrial and agricultural sediment from the lakes and rivers could run as high as $6 billion.

"But this is an important beginning," he said.

The government also has designated Eighteenmile Creek, a salmon fishery in Niagara County, as an "area of concern." Because of contaminated sediment dumped by industry, catches are released or discarded.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrats, won final passage in the House on Tuesday.

Research shows contaminated sediment has caused tumors and impaired reproduction in fish, caused birth defects in fish-eating birds and mammals, and increased the risk of cancer in people.

Dredging, treatment and disposal of contaminated sediment can cost $50 to $1,800 per cubic yard, with a median cost of $300 to $450 per cubic yard, according to the Council of Great Lakes Industries.

The legislation also provides additional funds championed by former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., for environmental work on Lake Champlain.

"With his signature, President Bush recognized what we in New York know well, that the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain are natural treasures that must be preserved," Clinton said.

News wire services contributed to this report.


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