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- From: "LISA S. YEE" <YEE@nwf.org>
- Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 13:13:17 -0400
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cameron Davis - (313) 769-3351
Tim Eder - (313) 769-3351
Court Gives the Great Lakes a Victory -
Upholds Great Lakes Initiative
Washington, D.C. (June 10) -- The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday upheld the Great Lakes Initiative, a set of new anti-pollution rules for the lakes, despite an intense legal effort by industry to kill the federal environmental protection effort.
*This is a tremendous victory for the people and environment of the Great Lakes region,* said Wayne Schmidt, Director of the National Wildlife Federation*s Great Lakes Natural Resource Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. *This ruling by the court is a loud and clear signal to the Great Lakes states to move now to implement the Initiative. Polluters no longer can argue that states should wait for a court ruling. They lost. Now it*s time for states to complete their job of implementing the Great Lakes Initiative in order to stop the pollution and end the risk to our families and future generations.*
The Initiative is a set of uniform water quality standards for the Great Lakes required under the Clean Water Act. In 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final standards. By March 23, 1997, the Great Lakes states were supposed to adopt water quality standards that are *consistent with* the Initiative.* The Initiative targets 29 of the most hazardous toxics in the Great Lakes, such as PCBs, dioxin, and mercury.
In July 1995, seven industrial and municipal dischargers sued to try to kill the Great Lakes Initiative. The National Wildlife Federation also filed suit to attempt to strengthen the Great Lakes Initiative and to prevent the dischargers from killing the package. The court*s ruling upheld the Initiative in virtually all respects. For example, Initiative opponents failed in their effort to weaken restrictions on dumping mercury into the Great Lakes. Mercury causes severe health effects on people, fish and wildlife. They also lost in their legal bid to scrap measures called *tier 2 values* that would shift the burden of proving that some pollutants are not harmful to the discharger, rather than the taxpayer.
Environmentalists were disappointed, however, that the court delayed implementation of a *mixing zone phaseout,* which would have eliminated areas in waterways where water pollution could be diluted to meet water quality standards. The court required the EPA to do additional work to ensure that economic and ecological factors were properly weighed. *Because the Initiative phases out mixing zones over the next 10 years, we*re confident that the EPA will have ample time to address the court*s concerns,* said NWF*s Schmidt.
Toxic pollutants targeted by the Initiative persist in the environment for years and even decades. They also *bioaccumulate* so that they increase in concentration as they move from small organisms to larger organisms up the food chain.
Children, including those yet to be born, are among those most susceptible to the health effects caused by the toxics covered by the Initiative. Documented child and adult health problems resulting from exposure include cancer, kidney and liver poisoning, respiratory problems, nerve damage and nervous system deficits, reproductive illnesses, and developmental disorders. Some toxics are also suspected of being *endocrine disrupters,* chemicals that mimic hormones to cause reproduction problems