Lakes cleanup gets mediocre grade
and bad news on chemical contaminants
Article courtesy of The
September 12, 2001
Progress in cleaning up the Great Lakes gets a lukewarm
evaluation in a new report from Canadian and U.S. environmental
The latest review of the environmental health of the lakes
shows efforts to clean up the lakes are good in parts, not
so hot in others.
The report, State of the Great Lakes 2001, is being released
The report was enthusiastic about the quality of the drinking
water provided by the lakes, calling it one of the best
sources in the world.
It also boasted about declining contaminants found in fish,
birds and other wildlife because of the drop in the amount
of toxic pollutants making their way into the lake.
But pollutants still fall from the atmosphere from distant
sources across North America and frustrate efforts to eliminate
the chemical substances like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
and common pesticides used in farming.
The report found that invasive species like zebra mussels
continue to make their way into the five lakes that contain
about one fifth of the world's fresh water supply.
``They still manage to sneak in,'' said Harvey Shear, an
Environment Canada science advisor and co-author of the
Shear is dismayed by the continuing loss of wetlands throughout
the Great Lakes basin and the increasing amount of ``hardening''
of shorelines, the practise of building concrete walls and
other barriers to prevent erosion.
The report notes the threat of climate change with warming
trends having the potential to reduce water levels in the
lakes that would further harm wetlands and natural habitats
for fish and wildlife.
The report is based on 33 environmental indicators studied
by scientists in Canada and the U.S.
Only drinking water quality, the health of walleye and the
reduction of contaminants in nesting water birds were listed
as positive signs.
Exotic species control in the lakes and efforts at reducing
abnormalities in Lake Erie fish were given poor ratings.
Progress in other categories was called mixed.
The report comes just as a major international environmental
conference scheduled to be held in Montreal this weekend
was cancelled because of the terrorist attacks yesterday
on New York and Washington.
The International Joint Commission, a Canada/U.S. body that
oversees Great Lakes and other boundary water issues, postponed
indefinitely its biennial meeting that was to start Friday.
It attracts environmentalists from all around the Great