Group says U.S., Canada too slow in addressing Great Lakes chemical pollution

Mar 2, 2016

More than six months after a report called for action to protect and clean up the Great Lakes, very little has changed. That's the assessment of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Environmentalists had warned that the U.S. and Canada were failing to mitigate the threat that chemicals pollution poses to the Great Lakes. That's despite a well-intentioned water quality agreement reached more than three years ago.

More than 20 environmental groups on both sides of the border have sent a letter to the Great Lakes Executive committee, which oversees the agreement. The letter said there was an urgent pollution problem, but the committee was moving far too slowly to list chemicals of concern.

Credit File photo

Fe De Leon, a researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, says so far, only four toxins have been officially listed, but environmental organizations have a list of more than 500. She says part of the problem is getting Canada and the U.S. to work together.
"Recognizing that both countries work with a different political framework and have different laws that relate to managing chemicals, that's one challenge. And in Canada specifically, I think we've got caught up in the transition of a new government," said De Leon.
Activists want the two countries to focus more on consumer products like flame retardants, household chemicals and cleaners and personal care products.
"The evidence is there to demonstrate that these are really problematic chemicals and given that we are challenged with a number of a environmental problems in the Great Lakes, I would hope that we're not waiting for a situation where they need full evidence of harm before they take action," De Leon added.
De Leon says governments have been too slow to address the concerns. She says PCBs and mercury are still being found in the Great Lakes, despite years spent trying to manage them.