IJC meeting to focus on sewage overflows and other water quality problems affecting the Great Lakes

Fish on pharmaceuticals, alien invaders and poo in the Great Lakes will be on the agenda  Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 7-8) when the International Joint Commission hold its  biennial meeting in Windsor, Ontario.

The commission, which mediates Great Lakes and other border issues between the U.S.  and Canada, will discuss several weighty issues facing the lakes, including: Invasive  species, chemicals of emerging concern (fish on Prozac and other drugs), sewage  overflows and water quality.

The commission’s meeting will focus largely on its 14th Biennial report on Great Lakes Water Quality.

It was fitting that a photo of a sewage treatment plant graced the cover of the IJC’s Biennial Report.

Why, you ask?

Well, nearly four decades after the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, we still treat the lakes like crap.

Cities around the lakes discharge tens of billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the lakes annually, invasive species delivered by ocean freighters have plunged the lakes into a state of profound biological chaos, harmful algae blooms foul beaches and a botulism plague has killed more than 70,000 water birds over the past decade.

What is the IJC doing about these problems? Go to the IJC’s Web site to see for yourself.

The sad fact is that our collective failure to adequately protect these majestic waters is all around us: Contaminated fish, a plague of invasive species and nasty algae blooms that soil beaches and threaten human health and wildlife.

Granted, the lakes are in far better shape than they were in 1972, when the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. But much work remains.

We’ll know we’re making huge strides when cities such as Detroit and Chicago no longer use the Great Lakes as a toilet for billions of gallons of untreated sewage.

For much more on the IJC’s meeting and the 14th Biennial Report, go to the IJC Web site and read Washington Post reporter Kari Lydersen’s thoughtful commentary on the biennial report.

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