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Posts from — February 2013

A Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement for the 21st Century

The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire, arguably one the most significant environmental calamities in Great Lakes’ history, sparked the public’s attention and galvanized federal action around water pollution control. The result was the creation of the U.S. Clean Water Act, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Signed in 1972, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was principally established to ensure the U.S. and Canada were both taking action to control pollution, advance scientific research, and monitoring the water quality of the Great Lakes. The biggest threat at the time to water quality was point source pollution, from phosphorous loading by large sewage treatment plants to PCBs and mercury from industrial outfalls.

Since the original 1972 agreement and its 1978 and 1987 revisions, there have been a number of directly-related successes, including a reduction in the release of toxic substances and a significant decline in the number of invasive species introduced by ballast water.

Amended in 2012 for the third time, the Agreement is now revamped to take on today’s threats to water quality and quantity. Asian carp are aggressively making their way up the Mississippi River into the Chicago Area Water Ways. Lake levels have reached an all-time low in Lakes Huron and Michigan. And some issues of the past still linger. While we have successfully addressed point source pollution, that was arguably the easier task. Lake Erie had its worst harmful algal bloom in history in 2011 due in large part to non-point sources. The complex pollution issues of today involve increasingly intense rainfall events and the presence of the invasive zebra mussel which exacerbates the impact of phosphorus loads from non-point sources like agricultural runoff.

The 2012 Agreement builds on 40 years of binational success, and establishes new commitments to address today’s threats and yesterday’s challenges that remain.

New and retained areas of focus (“Annexes”) to the 2012 Agreement are:

Retained Annexes New Annexes
Areas of Concern Climate Change Impacts
Discharges from Vessels Aquatic Invasive Species
Lakewide Management Habitat and (Native) Species
Chemicals of Mutual Concern Science
Nutrients Groundwater





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February 27, 2013   1 Comment

Great Lakes Century Team Takes Home Metropolis Magazine’s 2013 Game Changers Award

At the Game Changer Award Ceremony, New York City, February 7, 2013


February 8, 2013   1 Comment