The Great Lakes Water Quality Centennial Study - Phase I Report


In 1913, a ground-breaking IJC monitoring study linked untreated sewage pollution to widespread disease in the Great Lakes. One hundred years later, the question remains whether nearshore fecal bacterial/microbial water quality is getting better or worse. While technology to prevent and track this pollution has advanced, fecal bacterial/microbial pollution still threatens drinking water, recreational uses, and the continued success of shoreline restoration efforts. Nearshore monitoring using modern tools such as microbial source tracking can better pinpoint sources of waste causing bacterial pollution, which can in turn inform governments’ actions to prevent bacterial pollution and protect public health.

This Health Professionals Advisory Board report examines available data and literature on fecal contamination and fecal source identification. The report concludes that a modern, binational Great Lakes basin wide nearshore fecal bacterial/microbial water quality survey is feasible and that such a study could provide a framework for future efforts. The findings and recommendations outlined in this report can help Canadian and US governments to identify health risks of fecal bacterial/microbial pollution in the Great Lakes basin and to prioritize cost-effective investments in using cutting-edge technology in ongoing and widespread monitoring, tracking and mitigation efforts to improve outcomes of restoration efforts.