IJC Advises U.S. And Canadian Federal Governments That Greater Efforts Are Needed or Great Lakes Agreement May Fail

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"It is clear that unless the United States and Canadian governments take the actions the Commission now recommends, they will fail to achieve the purpose they set for themselves in 1978 (under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem," says the International Joint Commission in its Tenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality released today.

Human health concerns from eating contaminated Great Lakes fish, cleanup of contaminated sediment, air deposition of persistent toxic substances, urban land use, and monitoring and information needs are cited as major concerns in the new report. "The power of the vision captured in the Agreement has not been reflected in the two governments' implementation efforts. Although progress has been made, Governments have not committed adequate funding or, more important, taken the decisive actions required ... to ensure that the citizens of both countries can safely swim in, drink water and eat fish from the Great Lakes," the IJC says.

In its Tenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, the IJC makes direct recommendations regarding the following concerns:

Contaminated Sport Fish: Provincial and state governments should require that sport fish consumption advisories state plainly that eating Great Lakes sport fish may lead to birth anomalies and other serious health problems for children and women of child-bearing age. These advisories need to be addressed and distributed directly to women, and they need to clearly identify fish to be totally avoided in the light of the precautionary approach.

Contaminated Sediment: Sediment remediation is a large scale, high cost problem throughout the Great Lakes basin. Federal, provincial, and state governments should immediately develop a comprehensive program, setting priorities and timetables and providing the resources for completion of remediation in each Area of Concern.

Airborne Toxic Substances: The federal governments should identify both in-basin and out-of-basin sources of atmospheric deposition of persistent toxic substances, and use this information to formulate and implement appropriate prevention and control measures. The Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy must be strengthened to address fully the issue of airborne toxic substances.

Urbanization: The impervious surfaces of cities, towns and suburbs increase runoff, which can contain nutrients, pathogens, sediment, industrial chemicals and pesticides into waterways. The increased runoff can exacerbate erosion, flooding and threaten groundwater. Although measures have been taken in specific locations, governments at all levels have to give adequate attention to the issue of urban sprawl.

Alien Invasive Species: These species, such as zebra mussels, are most often introduced through the release of ballast water from ships. The federal governments should adopt and implement a binational ballast water research strategy, and ask the Commission to develop binational standards for discharges of ballast water and the most appropriate methods for implementing those standards.

Monitoring and Information Management: Federal, provincial and state governments should develop and maintain the full range of coordinated monitoring and surveillance programs necessary to enable them to fulfill their commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and adopt a binational information policy to support implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The International Joint Commission is a binational Canada-United States organization established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty to assist the governments in preventing disputes related to boundary waters along the U.S./Canadian border. The Commission's report is issued biennially as required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Contacts:

Windsor/Detroit Jennifer Day 519.257.6733 or 313.226.2170 ext. 6733

Washington, D.C. Frank Bevacqua 202.736.9024

Ottawa, ON Fabien Lengellé 613.995.0088