The Great Lakes are under siege from sewage pollution, four decades after Congress passed one of America’s landmark environmental laws — the federal Clean Water Act. Communities that rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water and recreation continue to dump billions of gallons of untreated sewage every year into these freshwater seas.
From January 2009 through January 2010, just five cities on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes — Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind. — discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and filthy storm water into the lakes. That volume equals the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls during a 15-hour period.
Combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, are one of the most serious pollution problems facing the Great Lakes. These discharges force beach closures, prompt health advisories urging people to stay out of polluted rivers, harm wildlife and hurt tourism.
There is no time to waste. Cities around the Great Lakes know how to fix the CSO problem — they need financial assistance from Congress to get started.
Investing in wastewater infrastructure to create jobs and solve the sewage crisis in the Great Lakes.
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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.