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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 22, 1998

INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION
Contacts: Windsor/Detroit: Jennifer Day 519-257-6733
or
313-226-2170
Washington, D.C.: Frank Bevacqua 202-736-9024
Ottawa: Fabien Lengellé 613-995-0088

U.S. AND CANADIAN FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS MUST FULFILL OBLIGATIONS TO RESTORE AND PROTECT THE GREAT LAKES

The federal governments of the United States and Canada must renew their dedication and fulfill their commitments under their Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to restore and protect Great Lakes water quality, concludes the International Joint Commission in its Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality.

The goal of the Ninth Biennial Report is to rejuvenate action on the part of governments and bring solutions and resolution to on-going problems and issues affecting the Great Lakes. The Commission has made 19 recommendations that present a number of specific targets and deadlines to help achieve the agreement's purpose and measure progress toward this end. Recommendations are made in the areas of:

  • initiating and completing remediation of contaminated sediment;
  • reducing and eliminating sources of air pollution containing specific toxic and persistent toxic substances;
  • reducing pollution to the Great Lakes from agricultural land;
  • funding research about endocrine disruption in humans and wildlife;
  • adopting a strategy relating to dioxins and furans;
  • identifying and eliminating specific uses of mercury;
  • developing a detailed program for the systematic destruction of PCBs; and
  • monitoring of nuclear facilities and toxic chemicals used at nuclear facilities, as well as the effects of certain radioactive elements.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has been renegotiated twice in the past 26 years to include current issues such persistent toxic substances. It is scheduled to be reviewed again this year. The Commission firmly believes, "... the present Agreement is sound, effective and flexible. Review and renegotiation are not necessary." Rather, the governments need to renew and fulfill their commitments and focus on implementation, enforcement and other actions to achieve the Agreement's purpose."

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a formal commitment by Canada and the U.S. to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Progress in the Agreement's implementation includes many success stories and positive signs that the lakes are returning to better health. Because of its success, the Agreement serves as a model of international environmental cooperation around the world. This progress reflects the courage and willingness of our governments in the past to deal with environmental problems of the Great Lakes. Even so, the United States and Canada cannot afford to retreat from their mutual commitments to protect their shared resources.

Tremendous gains have been made toward achieving the purpose of the Agreement, yet despite decades of effort, society has not gone far enough. The issue of persistent toxic substances has not been resolved and the Commission again stresses the importance of virtually eliminating the input of these contaminants to the Great Lakes system. There is overwhelming evidence that certain persistent toxic substances impair human intellectual capacity, change behavior, damage the immune system and compromise reproductive capacity. The report states, "Injury has occurred in the past, is occurring today and, unless society acts now to further reduce the concentration of persistent toxic substances in the environment, the injury will continue in the future."

The Commission continues to focus on persistent toxic substances in the Great Lakes, but also recognizes the impact of many other stressors including land use patterns, increasing shoreline development, habitat modification, biological contamination and nutrient input. All must be considered and resources should not be transferred from one issue to another.

The report recognizes that the federal governments should be the leaders in protecting the Great Lakes, but all stakeholders, provincial and state governments in the Great Lakes basin have roles and responsibilities to insure that restoration and protection become a reality.

The International Joint Commission is a binational Canada-United States organization established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty to assist the governments in preventing disputes related to boundary waters along the U.S./Canadian border. The Commission's report is issued biennially as required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

For additional copies, contact an IJC office as listed below, or http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/html/9br/covere.html on the Internet.

U.S. Section
1250 23rd Street N.W., Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20440
202-736-9000 telephone
202-736-9015 fax
commission@washington.ijc.org
Canadian Section
100 Metcalfe Street, 18th floor,
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1
613-995-2984 telephone
613-993-5583 fax
commission@ottawa.ijc.org
Great Lakes Regional Office
100 Ouellette Avenue, Eighth floor
Windsor, ON N9A 6T3
519-257-6734 telephone
519-257-6740 fax
or
P.O. Box 32869
Detroit, MI 48232
313-226-2170 telephone
commission@windsor.ijc.org

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