Canada Lags Behind U.S. in Great Lakes Protection



    Urgent action needed to clean up and protect the Great Lakes and St.
    Lawrence River, new Blueprint says

    TORONTO, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - Canadian governments must do their fair share
to clean up and protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, according to a
Great Lakes Blueprint released today by six leading environmental groups. The
Blueprint release coincides with a meeting of experts in Toronto over the next
two days to discuss protecting Great Lakes drinking water.
    "The U.S. Congress is considering billions in Great Lakes spending. With
half of the Canadian population depending on the Great Lakes and their
tributaries for drinking water, Canadian funding to protect the resource is
grossly inadequate," said Derek Stack, Executive Director, Great Lakes United.
    The United States has proposed a bill that earmarks $20 billion for Great
Lakes clean-up efforts, and has already taken concrete action on many fronts.
    "U.S. efforts to clean up and protect the Great Lakes are eclipsing
Canada's meager commitments," said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director,
Environmental Defence. "These waterways carry more than our history. They
provide the lifeblood of our economy, the water we drink, and the places we go
to relax and rejuvenate ourselves."

    
    The causes of this on-going crisis are clear:
    -   cities dump untreated sewage into the Great Lakes in enormous
        quantities;
    -   Canadian industries emit more than 1 billion kilograms of pollutants
        to the air, and on a per-facility basis, release far more than their
        U.S. counterparts;
    -   ocean-going vessels are responsible for at least 65% of the now over
        180 invasive species wreaking havoc on Great Lakes native species;
    -   water levels in Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior are well below
        normal, with Lake Superior surpassing its record low set in 1926;
        and,
    -   unsuitable urban development is destroying sensitive wildlife
        habitat. Projections are that by 2030, 3 million more people will
        live in Lake Ontario's basin, which could greatly increase these
        development pressures.
    

    "The Great Lakes are without a doubt Canada's most important freshwater
ecosystem," said Dr. Anastasia Lintner, Staff Lawyer & Economist, Ecojustice.
"We must act now to heal the damage we've inflicted and protect these precious
waters for our children."
    "It is crucial that the federal and provincial governments invest heavily
in upgrading wastewater systems and sewage treatment facilities," said Maureen
Carter-Whitney, Research Director at the Canadian Institute for Environmental
Law and Policy. "This is necessary to ensure that pollution such as industrial
chemicals, pharmaceuticals and human waste, no longer threaten the Great
Lakes."
    Great Lakes Blueprint: A Canadian Vision for Protecting and Restoring the
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Ecosystem outlines eight priorities that
Canadian governments must follow to protect the Great Lakes for future
generations, including: (1) improving governance; (2) enabling effective
public participation; (3) connecting water quality and quantity; (4)
practicing ecosystem based stewardship; (5) eliminating toxic substances; (6)
upgrading sewage infrastructure; (7) halting aquatic invasive species; (8)
protecting water levels and flows.
    "Concerns are growing that we may surpass the tipping point in the Great
Lakes," said Sarah Miller of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. "Once
beyond this point, the ecosystem will not be able to bounce back and recover
from the continuing complex stresses from human activity."
    "Most people do not realize that only one per cent of the water in the
lakes is renewed each year. There is a precarious balance between human
activities and lake levels," said Tim Morris, National Water Campaigner for
Sierra Club of Canada. "Climate change, urban expansion, and diversions are
all serious threats to water levels. Levels in the upper lakes are already
approaching record lows. Governments must show leadership by committing
wholeheartedly to water conservation, prohibiting diversions, and spurring
citizen action to save Great Lakes water."
    Great Lakes Blueprint: A Canadian Vision for Protecting and Restoring the
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Ecosystem is available at no cost to
download on the organizations' web site: Canadian Environmental Law
Association (www.cela.ca); Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy
(www.cielap.org); Ecojustice (www.ecojustice.ca); Environmental Defence
(www.environmentaldefence.ca); Great Lakes United (www.glu.org); Sierra Club
of Canada (www.sierraclub.org)




For further information:

For further information: Sarah Miller or Fe de Leon, Canadian
Environmental Law Association, (416) 960-2284 ext.213 or ext.223; Derek Stack,
Great Lakes United, (613) 797-9532; Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence,
(416) 323-9521 ext. 232, (647) 280-9521 (cell); Sophie Kohn, Ecojustice, (416)
368-7533 ext. 29; Tim Morris, Sierra Club of Canada - Ontario Chapter, (416)
960-9606; Maureen Carter-Whitney, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and
Policy, (416) 923-3529 x. 22


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