For Immediate Release Contact:
January 29, 2004 Wendy Balazik, 202-675-2383
Rita Jack 517-484-2372
Statement of Emily Green, Director of Sierra Club's Great Lakes Program, on EPA Announcement of Funding for Great Lakes Toxic Cleanups
"While fully funding the Great Lakes Legacy Act is a step in the right direction, the Bush administration's unrelenting attacks on clean water and clean air protections will continue to leave the Great Lakes at risk. The cleanup of toxic hotspots is an important part of a broader effort to protect and restore the communities and environment of the Great Lakes, but other recent Bush administration policies are making it impossible to realize the goals of Great Lakes protection and restoration.
“For example, the Bush administration is weakening protections from toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. This means that mercury, a potent neurotoxin and the cause of fish consumption advisories throughout the Great Lakes, will continue to pollute the lakes and endanger our children for generations to come. In addition, the Bush administration blocked rules that would have protected our families and communities from raw, untreated sewage that contaminates our drinking water and closes our beaches. Last year, the Great Lakes suffered a record number of closed beaches due to bacterial contamination. The Bush administration also issued a policy directive making it more difficult to protect wetlands and headwater streams, which filter pollutants out of our water. We have already lost over 70 percent of Great Lakes basin wetlands, and we cannot afford to lose any more.
"The Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002 authorized $50 million per year for five years to support the cleanup of toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes. However, last year, Congress included only $12 million for these cleanups in the budget. We urge Congress to fully fund the Great Lakes Legacy Act.
"Citizens who love the Great Lakes finally are being heard. It was their public pressure that has brought this about. Every year, children in these communities suffer from developmental difficulties and related impairments that are the result of exposure to toxic pollutants in the womb and through breast milk-that is far too high a cost to allow continued inaction.
"Fully funding the Great Lakes Legacy Act is a step in the right direction, but the Bush administration needs to strengthen, not weaken our clean air and clean water laws, enforce those laws, and demand polluters be held accountable for the damage they do."
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Water Sentinels Project Director
Mackinac Chapter Sierra Club
"Speak out - even if your voice shakes."