Is the latest Federal-Provincial Great Lakes Agreement Enough?



    Groups say problems could overwhelm actions.

    TORONTO, Aug. 15 /CNW/ - The Federal and Ontario governments' release of
their 3-year Great Lakes work plan has raised concerns among leading Great
Lakes based organizations. The most recent Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA),
released yesterday, five months after the last Agreement expired, sets out
actions and funding for the governments to carry out their shared obligations
under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
    The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), Environmental Defence
and Great Lakes United say the Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) will do too
little, too slowly to clean up and protect the Great Lakes in the long term.
Concerns focus on whether the work plans and commitments will keep pace with
the challenges to the health and well being of the ecosystem.

    
    1)  Specific federal and provincial funding commitments to implement the
        COA programs between 2007-2010 remain vague and difficult to
        evaluate.
    2)  The governments' plan would extend the current Agreement, and adds
        several new requirements. However, what remains unanswered is when
        the governments plan to undertake a substantive review of the
        effectiveness of COA.
    3)  The lack of targets and deadlines to eliminate and reduce the most
        toxic and harmful substances, and the completion of clean up of Great
        Lakes hotspots, will limit this Agreement's effectiveness.
    

    "Many questions remain on the lack of goals and targets to prevent the
release of most toxic chemicals to the Lakes. This leaves us wondering whether
COA will actually result in the Great Lakes being cleaner and safer by 2010,"
said Fe de Leon, researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
    "The federal and provincial governments should immediately establish a
long-term vision and plan for the Great Lakes that includes line by line
budgets needed to carry out the plan. The US Great Lakes Collaborative has
done a detailed plan with budgets for actions. They are currently seeking
approvals from Congress to complete their clean-up obligations. Unfortunately,
this Agreement still does not detail the resources necessary for the jobs that
need to be done in the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes. While there have
been some increased commitments to the overall budget, the governments have
not yet committed the billions of dollars needed to complete the Remedial
Action Plans for cleaning up the historical pollution in the 15 designated
Areas of Concern," said John Jackson, the Clean Production Program Director of
Great Lakes United.
    The Great Lakes is the primary source of drinking water for over 8
million Canadians and is the largest fresh water body in the world. Over the
past three decades, the Great Lakes have been subject to chronic threats from
continuing high levels of toxic pollution from industrial activities, sewage
discharges, eutrophication from increasing discharges of phosphorus, impacts
from urbanization and development. New stresses are complicating the ability
to restore the Great Lakes. Increasing numbers of alien invasive species,
climate change impacts, and detection of new toxic substances and
pharmaceutical products in water further threaten the quality of drinking
water, ecosystems and human health. "We worry that incremental steps may not
be big enough to keep pace with the complex interactions we are seeing in the
ecosystem. It is increasingly difficult to know if individual and cumulative
actions will ever be able to achieve the overall goals of restoration and
protection of the Great Lakes." said Sarah Miller, Researcher at CELA.
    Some of the recent announcements by the federal and provincial
governments on protecting water sources, air pollution, and managing toxic
substances are mentioned in the new COA but without detail on how these
activities will be implemented. As well, several important new provisions on
drinking water source protection and tracking climate change impacts have been
added. The federal government is currently reviewing suggested improvements to
the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act but it is unclear if these new provisions will be
mirrored in these improvements.
    "Canada's laws are still not up to the task of protecting the Great
Lakes," said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director at Environmental Defence. "Cities
are still dumping raw sewage into the Lakes, and industrial and agricultural
pollution threats are not being addressed."
    Substantial submissions have been submitted by the Canadian Environmental
Law Association, Environmental Defence and Great Lakes United on COA. Visit:
www.cela.ca to download submissions.





For further information:

For further information: Sarah Miller, Canadian Environmental Law
Association, (416) 960-2284 ext. 213; John Jackson, Great Lakes United, (519)
744-7503; Mike Layton, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 x 257


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