Coalition Supports Efforts to Clean Up Great Lakes Toxic Hot Spots

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (July 11, 2008) – The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday introduced the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008, a bill to clean up toxic pollution around the lakes. With only days left in the summer congressional calendar, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition urged Congress to re-authorize and fund the successful program and called on the Presidential candidates to support Congress’ efforts.

“Cleaning up toxic pollution is essential to our public health, economy and way of life,” said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We urge the U.S. Congress to re-authorize and fund this successful clean-up program so that we can put an end to drinking water restrictions, beach closings and fish consumption advisories for the millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes.”

Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and James Oberstar (D-Minn.) introduced the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 (H.R. 6460), whose funds go toward clean-up of polluted Great Lakes harbors and tributaries. Designated Areas of Concern by the U.S. and Canadian governments, the contaminated sites pose threats to people, wildlife and economy.

“We applaud Representatives Ehlers and Oberstar for introducing this bill and leading the bi-partisan effort to clean up toxic contaminants in the Great Lakes,” said Skelding. “We look forward to working with them and Congress to make this legislation as strong as possible for the citizens of the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes Legacy Act is a top priority for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. The Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Act for another five years and increases the authorization of funds from $54 million to $150 million per year.

Of the 31 contaminated sites in the United States or shared with Canada, only one Area of Concern –Oswego River – has been de-listed since 1987. (A full list of U.S. Areas of Concern in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin is below.)

“The pace of restoring Areas of Concern is too slow,” said Skelding. “We know that healthy lakes go hand-in-hand with healthy communities and a healthy economy. It’s time to speed up work cleaning up these polluted sites before the problems gets worse and the solutions more costly. The time to act is now.”

The Great Lakes region stands to gain between $12 billion and $19 billion in economic benefit from cleaning up the Areas of Concern, according to the Brookings Institution.

Updating and funding the Great Lakes Legacy Act is also a major recommendation of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, a historic plan put forward by more than 1,500 citizens, public officials, business representatives, scientists and conservationists.  It’s also a priority for the Council of Great Lakes Industries and the Great Lakes Commission.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 100 zoos, aquariums, museums, and hunting, fishing, and environmental organizations representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

For more information: http://healthylakes.org/

For Immediate Release:
July 11, 2008

Contact:
Jeff Skelding, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (202) 797-6893, jskelding@nwf.org
Chad Lord, Policy Director, Healing Our Waters Coalition, (202) 454-3385, clord@npca.org
Jordan Lubetkin, Communications Director, Healing Our Waters Coalition, (734) 904-1589, lubetkin@nwf.org

United States Areas of Concern include:

ILLINOIS
Waukegan Harbor, Illinois

INDIANA
Grand Calumet River, Indiana

MICHIGAN
Clinton River, Michigan
Deer Lake, Michigan
Detroit River, Michigan
Kalamazoo River, Michigan
Manistique River, Michigan
Muskegon Lake, Michigan
River Raisin, Michigan
Rouge River, Michigan
Saginaw River and Bay, Michigan
St. Clair River, Michigan
St. Marys River, Michigan
Torch Lake, Michigan
White Lake, Michigan

NEW YORK
Buffalo River, New York
EighteenMile Creek, New York
Niagara River, New York
Oswego River/Harbor, New York
Rochester Embayment, New York
St. Lawrence River at Massena, New York

OHIO
Ashtabula River, Ohio
Black River, Ohio
Cuyahoga River, Ohio
Maumee River, Ohio

PENNSYLVANIA
Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania

MINNESOTA/WISONSIN
St. Louis River and Bay, Minnesota and Wisconsin

WISCONSIN
Lower Green Bay and Fox River, Wisconsin
Menominee River, Wisconsin
Milwaukee Estuary, Wisconsin
Sheboygan River, Wisconsin

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