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U.S./Canada "Virtual Elimination" agreement

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Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 16:15:12 -0400
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     U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. 
Browner and Canadian Minister of the Environment Sergio Marchi today 
agreed to a milestone plan to protect public health by virtually 
eliminating persistent toxic substances from the Great Lakes by the 
year 2006, as promised by President Clinton and Prime Minister 
Chretien in February l995.  The agreement between the two 
environmental leaders was signed today at a ceremony in Washington, 
D.C., and is the first time specific reduction targets for toxic 
pollutants have been jointly set by both countries.

     Browner and Marchi signed two additional agreements to expand 
efforts to control transboundary air emissions and to cooperate in a 
number of research and development activities.

     The Great Lakes contain 18 percent of the world's fresh surface 
water.  They are home to 33 million people in the U.S. and Canada, 
nearly half of whom draw their drinking water from the Lakes.   

     Browner hailed the Great Lakes agreement, saying,  "This 
agreement to virtually eliminate major toxic substances from the Great 
Lakes is an important step forward in protecting the health of 
American and Canadian citizens living in the region.  Pollution knows 
no boundaries, and therefore it is vital that our two countries 
jointly identify the challenges, set common goals and work together to 
restore the water quality of these magnificent lakes we share."

     Canadian Minister Marchi said, "Our citizens breathe the same 
air, drink the same water, and share many species of wildlife.  We 
also share the same environmental problems.  Under the agreements 
reached today, Canada and the United States will work together to 
better protect our water, air and wildlife."

     The presence of toxic contaminants in the Great Lakes is a 
significant concern.  Despite their great depth and size, the Great 
Lakes are particularly vulnerable to toxic contaminants because the 
contaminants remain in the system for many years. Many of these 
pollutants are a serious threat, even in small amounts, because they 
are long-lasting and bioaccumlate, becoming 
more concentrated as they move through the food chain from plants to 
fish to wildlife and people.  

     The plan to virtually eliminate identified persistent toxic 
substances in the Great Lakes, especially those which accumulate and 
persist in the environment for decades, is based primarily on 
voluntary pollution prevention activities, but builds on existing 
Canadian and U.S. regulatory programs.       	       
     In the United States, the goals for mercury, PCBs and dioxin are 
national in scope because these toxics are primarily airborne and even 
sources far outside the basin can reach the Great Lakes through 
atmospheric long-range transport.     	

     The strategy sets milestones to be achieved from l997 to 2006.  
Among the U.S. milestones,  the strategy calls for a 50 percent 
reduction of mercury uses nationally;  a 90 percent reduction 
nationally of high-level PCBs used in electrical equipment; a 75 
percent reduction in total releases of dioxins and furans from human 
activity sources, such as incinerators, to apply to aggregate releases 
to the air nationwide and of releases to the waters of the Great 
Lakes; and confirmation that there are no releases of five 
bioaccumulative pesticides: chlordane, aldrin/dieldrin, DDT, mirex and 
     EPA, Environment Canada, industry, labor, states, provincial, 
local and tribal governments, environmentalists and affected citizens 
will implement the strategy and regularly assess progress.

     Pollutants enter the Great Lakes from the air, stirred-up bottom 
sediments, urban and agricultural runoff, hazardous waste sites, 
spills and industrial and municipal wastewater.

     Toxic contaminants are present in the Great Lakes at unacceptably 
high levels, making some fish unsafe to eat, presenting a continued 
human health risk and suppressing the economic potential of the 
fisheries' industry.  Today, there are fish consumption advisories in 
all of the Great Lakes states, based primarily on PCBs, mercury and 
toxaphene contamination.  

     Since the Boundary Waters Treaty of  l909, the U.S. and Canada 
have formally cooperated to address water quality problems within the 
Great Lakes basin.  The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, first 
signed in l972 and last amended in l987, has served as a management 
framework for achieving environmental results and for protecting and 
restoring the ecosystem. 

     In March l995, the Clinton Administration announced a far-
reaching plan in partnership with the Great Lakes states to adopt 
consistent water quality standards in the U.S. across the Great Lakes 
to help restore the health and the economy of the lakes.  Today's 
action advances that commitment.

     Today's two additional signings call for increasing bilateral 
cooperation on transboundary air pollution and cooperation in 
environmental research and technology.  

     The United States and Canada are increasing efforts under a l991 
agreement to address air quality issues, notably ground level ozone 
(smog) and particulate matter (soot).  To cope with both pollution 
problems, the environmental agencies, EPA and Environment Canada, will 
examine how emission management mechanisms, including innovative 
pollution control strategies, could be applied to our common boundary.  

     A 1985 memorandum of understanding on cooperative research and 
the sharing of scientific and technical information has been updated 
to promote and facilitate information exchange of research results and 
technical data; to provide for joint projects, thus avoiding 
duplication and associated costs; and to cooperate in the development 
of innovative ideas and approaches to environmental problems.  The 
environmental agencies will meet in September to initiate the MOU.

R-55           	              ###

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  asagady@sojourn.com
Environmental Consulting and Database Systems
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