Friday, February 29, 2008

House Investigates CDC Suppressed Great Lakes Report

Feb 28: Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), the Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-MI), the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, announced an investigation into the withholding of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) that reportedly demonstrates a correlation between pollution in the Great Lakes and health issues such as cancer mortality and higher infant mortality rates. On February 7, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) announced that, "For more than seven months, the nation’s top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially “alarming information” as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates." [See WIMS 2/8/08].

Dingell said, “Pollution in our Great Lakes can have very real health consequences for the millions of Americans who live in and around the Great Lakes basin. If the Administration has willfully withheld a report from the public, it raises questions about whether they are putting the public health at risk and about the scientific integrity of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Stupak said, “With a mission to promote health and prevent disease, CDC has an obligation to share the results of this report with the American public. Instead it appears CDC has made a concerted effort to conceal this information. The health challenges facing these Great Lakes communities will not go away by ignoring the scientific facts. This report could be a valuable tool as federal, state and local governments allocate resources for Great Lakes clean-up efforts. We intend to determine through our investigation who at CDC made the decision to withhold the report and whether the author was penalized for advocating for its publication.”

The massive 400-page study, officially entitled, Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern, was completed in July 2007, following several years of work and extensive scientific peer review. According to a recent article by the Center for Public Integrity, officials at ATSDR, blocked the study’s publication. In a letter sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dingell and Stupak asked that the Great Lakes Report be published so that the validity of its findings can be fairly evaluated. The letter also requests information on events surrounding the suppression of the study. According to the article by the Center for Public Integrity, the Great Lakes Report’s chief author, Dr. Christopher De Rosa, was demoted after working to see the Great Lakes Report released to the public.

Access a release from Dingell and Stupak with links to the letter to CDC and the draft report (
click here).

Report Shows $15 Billion In Great Lakes Local Government Investment

Feb 27: A report released by the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) and funded by the Joyce Foundation, concludes that local governments in the U.S. and Canada invest an estimated $15 billion annually to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, but cannot keep pace with the one-two punch of escalating threats to the resource and ongoing cuts in Federal restoration programs. Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, chair of the Great Lakes Commission said, “This report clearly demonstrates that our cities and other communities are ready and willing partners in the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence ecosystem. Their contributions at the local level play a key role in the environmental health and well-being of the entire system, and they need and deserve federal support in those efforts.”

Results from the 143 U.S. and Canadian local governments that responded to the survey document 2006 local investment at $2.5 billion on water quality management activities, including wastewater systems operation, maintenance and infrastructure, and $784 million on ecosystem protection activities such as greenspace protection and recycling/reuse programs. By extrapolating to incorporate the entire survey population of 688 local governments, which included cities, towns, villages, counties, regional municipalities and conservation authorities, the estimated local government investment is $15 billion annually, with $12 billion for water quality management and $3 billion for ecosystem protection.

Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, founding U.S. chair of the Cities Initiative said, “This study makes it clear that there is a growing movement that recognizes the need for long-term funding for Great Lakes protection and restoration, but it also suggests that we need to do more. All our cities desperately need significant funding for water and wastewater infrastructure, but it’s still not on the radar of the national government and it’s time for them to step up and help protect this precious natural resource.” The survey found that in both the United States and Canada, local investment was highest in the area of wastewater systems operation, maintenance and infrastructure. U.S. survey results alone indicate that local government makes capital investments in wastewater infrastructure in the Great Lakes Basin at well over 10 times the U.S. Federal government. Federal funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) has been cut by 49 percent since 2004 and more cuts are proposed for 2009. When viewed in light of the survey results, these cuts only amplify the need for Congress to restore funding of the CWSRF to $1.35 billion.

The report -- Local Investment In The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence -- is expected to build support in the United States for Federal legislation to implement recommendations of the 2005 Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes -- the product of a year-long initiative among Federal, state and local governments, tribes and other stakeholders that was established by a presidential executive order. Among the Strategy’s foremost recommendations to protect and restore the Great Lakes is increased federal investment in storm-and wastewater treatment, to supplement the substantial local investment documented in the report.

Access a release from the GLC and Cities Initiative (
click here). Access the complete 89-page report (click here). Access further information from the Cities Initiative including an Introduction, Synopsis, Survey Fact Sheets (respondents, results) Press event speakers, and Clean Water State Revolving Fund facts (click here).