Sewage Report Card: Not Looking Good for Great Lakes

The Sierra Legal Defence Fund based in Canada released a new report today that details how Great Lakes cities are fouling the lakes with sewage.

Here’s an eye-opening (and nose-pinching) clip from the press release:

“The Great Lakes basin is one of the most important freshwater ecosystems on the planet – holding one fifth of the world’s freshwater,” said report author Dr. Elaine MacDonald. “Yet, the twenty cities we evaluated are dumping the equivalent of more than 100 Olympic swimming pools full of raw sewage directly into the Great Lakes every single day.”

The report grades municipalities on their efforts to keep sewage out of the Great Lakes.

The press release concludes:

“The results are disappointing, with cities like Toronto, Syracuse and Hamilton getting below average grades. Detroit, Cleveland and Windsor performed abysmally and are at the bottom of the class. The cities that fared poorly typically have serious problems related to their combined sewers; antiquated systems that combine storm water and sanitary sewers into a single pipe and are prone to releasing raw sewage during wet weather.”

There are some cities which are doing more on this issue:

“Green Bay, Peel Region and Duluth are at the top of the class. All three generally have more sophisticated treatment processes and permit very little sewage to escape into the environment through combined sewer overflows, spills or bypasses.”

While we’re grading cities on their effort to clean up their act, let’s not forget that our federal elected officials have a role to play in keeping the lakes clean.

We have effective programs such as the State Revolving Fund, a national program which provides low-interest loans to communities to help upgrade municipal water infrastructure to prevent sewage spills.

The problem is that for years, Congress and the President have under-funded and cut this vital program (as well as other essential Great Lakes clean-up programs).

The State Revolving Fund is a major component of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, a comprehensive federal bill to restore the Great Lakes. Congress needs to pass this common-sense bill.

I mean: I love swimming, but who wants to swim in 100 Olympic pools of sewage a day?

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