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Binational Panel: US, Canada Have Work To Do To Help Great Lakes

IJC Draft Document On Climate Change To Be Discussed At Public Hearings

Al Goldis/AP Photo

A U.S.-Canadian panel is recommending government officials react more quickly to what climate change is doing to the Great Lakes.

The International Joint Commission released a draft assessment of whether the United States and Canada are making adequate progress on goals of a 2012 rewrite to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

According to the IJC, an advisory body, the nations are cooperating better than before. But IJC spokesman Frank Bevacqua said more is needed in the way of adapting to climate change.

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“Some of these adaptations are very costly,” Bevacqua said. “For example, managing runoff from major storm events that may become more frequent and more intense.”

Bevacqua said a coordinated binational approach could help share funding and expertise, and better set priorities.

Familiar toxic substances such as PCBs and dioxins appear to be declining or at least getting no worse in herring gull eggs, a key indicator of the chemicals’ presence, according to the IJC.

But several new and emerging chemicals such as fire retardants seem to be increasingly prevalent and could harm to the Great Lakes ecosystem. There’s also indication of rising mercury contamination in some fish, although levels remain below those of the 1970s.

Elsewhere in the report, not much progress has been shown on so-called human health objectives of making all of the lakes drinkable, swimmable and fishable, according to the IJC.

Commission spokeswoman Sally Cole-Misch said when it comes to drinking water, there should be more focus on lake quality.

“The governments should be looking at the quality of source water, not just treated drinking water, that that be part of the objective.”

There will be public hearings on the document in March in several Great Lakes cities.