Report Criticizes EPA for Lack of Progress in Cleaning Up Great Lakes Toxic Hot Spots

Legacy of toxic pollution around the Great Lakes continues to pose a threat to people and wildlife due to slow pace of cleanup. Federal funding has not kept pace with the problem, asserts National Wildlife federation.

09-16-2009 // Jeff Alexander

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to effectively coordinate and manage cleanups at some of the most polluted rivers and harbors in the Great Lakes, according to the agency’s inspector general.

A report issued yesterday by the EPA Inspector general said the agency’s efforts to remove toxic mud at so-called Areas of Concern are proceeding too slowly.

Toxic pollution poses a threat to people and wildlife.

Polluted sites around the Great Lakes have been responsible for, among other things:

  • drinking water restrictions,
  • beach closures,
  • fish consumption advisories
  • declining fish and wildlife populations.

The National Wildlife Federation’s Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said insufficient funding is slowing cleanup efforts.

“Reversing the slow pace of clean-up requires not only knowing what needs to be done, but the resources to do it,” Skelding said. “The pace of cleaning up toxic sediments has been too slow. But the problem is not insufficient planning, it is insufficient funding.”

Skelding said additional planning would further delay the cleanup of polluted sediments that pose a threat to the health of people, fish and wildlife.

“The bottom line is that successful programs to clean up toxic pollution and address other serious threats to the Great Lakes have been starved for federal funding for years,” Skelding said. “That needs to change if the country is to succeed at restoring this national icon and realize the vast economic benefit of a healthy Great Lakes.”

Congress is currently considering President Obama’s $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that will fund solutions to clean up toxic pollution, restore wildlife habitat and confront the threat of invasive species.

If approved, that plan is expected to speed pollution cleanup efforts in the lakes.

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