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U.S.-Canada Panel: Step up Protection
Despite improvements in recent decades, a U.S.-Canadian panel said the Great Lakes remain a dumping ground for pollution ranging from livestock waste to mercury emissions, the Associated Press reported.
The International Joint Commission urged both governments to step up protection and restoration efforts in its biennial report on Great Lakes water quality.
Herb Gray, the Canadian cochairman of the commission said, "There are a large number of problems still to be dealt with."
Dennis Schornack, the U.S. cochairman, agreed but added that "things have progressively gotten better."
Under the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, both nations agreed "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem" and to seek reductions in pollution.
Gray and Schornack said the pact, which has not been updated in 17 years, should be revised to include newer challenges such as the zebra mussel invasion, according to the Associated Press.
Schornack stated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Canadian counterpart, Environment Canada, have formed a committee to consider updates. According to him, the commission will offer suggestions by the end of the year.
In the report, scientists have identified 162 exotic species in the Great Lakes and some believe the total exceeds 170. They range from invaders such as the zebra mussel and the fish-killing lamprey to foreign algae and protozoa.
According to the commission, ballast water from oceangoing ships is believed to be a leading source of exotic species.
Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources continue to pollute the lakes and accumulate in the bodies of some fish, The report said the commission was "seriously concerned" about a rising number of oil and chemical spills in the connecting channel between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, particularly in the St. Clair River.