Thursday, April 22, 2010

Groups Say Great Lakes Under Siege From Toxic Pollution

Apr 21: A report released by Great Lakes-area environmental groups -- Partners in Pollution 2:  An Update on the Continuing Canadian and United States Contributions to Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Ecosystem Pollution -- indicates that reporting facilities released just over 460 million lbs (209 million kg) of pollutants in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin in 2007. The report numbers are based on a matched dataset of 2007 data compiled by the Canadian National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Among the pollutants, over 34 million lbs of known reproductive/developmental toxins were released by 1,834 facilities in the Great Lakes basin. The report was prepared by PollutionWatch, a collaborative project of Environmental Defence and Canadian Environmental Law Association.
    John Jackson, Director of Clean Production and Toxics at Great Lakes United (GLU) said, "Imagine 17,000 dump trucks pulling up to your beach and tipping their toxic load straight into the drinking water of 40 million people. These ongoing toxic discharges are a smear on one of the world's greatest sources of freshwater. We need to move beyond promises and put more serious effort into stopping this pollution in the first place." Lake Michigan basin had the second largest number of facilities in the basin (25% of all facilities) that reported to the U.S. TRI and contributed a fifth (approximately 21%) of total releases of pollutants in the Great Lakes basin. 
    Meanwhile, the Lake Erie basin is being particularly hard hit. Including the industrial facilities that straddle the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River, Lake Erie had the most facilities (over 1,300 facilities representing 35% of all facilities) that reported to Canada's NPRI and U.S. TRI. These facilities contributed half of the total releases that affect this watershed. The groups said, "This is particularly troubling considering that Lake Erie is the smallest, shallowest, but most biologically productive lake in the Great Lakes system."
    Lin Kaatz Chary, Project Director of the Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network said, "We need to shift away from an 'end of pipe' mentality and toward a strong commitment to pollution prevention. This includes an emphasis on the promotion of 'green' chemistry to help companies design and manufacture products that eliminate or reduce the toxicity of chemicals used in production, while also preventing unnecessary waste." The groups said the prevention focus has long been a principle of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), an historic pact between Canada and the U.S. to curb pollution to the lakes. Pollution Watch 2 is being released as the United States and Canadian governments renegotiate this landmark agreement, which sets goals for reducing pollution on both sides of the Great Lakes basin.
    Access a lengthy release with summary table and additional information (click here). Access the 65-page report (click here). Access the Pollution Watch website for extensive background information (click here).