High concentrations of pollutants in the sediments of Great Lakes rivers and harbors threaten the health of people, fish and wildlife. Years of toxic discharges into the Great Lakes and its tributaries have left a legacy of drinking water restrictions, beach closings and fish consumption advisories.
The nation has been slow to respond to this serious threat. In 1987, the U.S. and Canadian governments identified 43 contaminated harbors and tributaries around the Great Lakes – but still, after more than 20 years, only one site has been removed from the list on the U.S. side of the border.
We can clean up toxic pollution by encouraging Congress to boost funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The act funds the clean-up of these polluted sites.
There is a tremendous amount of work to do. Cleaning up the U.S.-based sites—so-called Areas of Concern — will cost between $1.5 billion and $4.5 billion, according to the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The strategy also recommends that Congress increase funding from $54 million to $150 million annually to effectively sustain the cleanup projects needed to restore the health of the Great Lakes.