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GLIN==> Report Grades Great Lakes: Good for drinking water,poor for spread of invasive species



CONTACT: Kären Thompson, (312) 353-8547
For Immediate Release    No. 01-OPA156

REPORT GRADES GREAT LAKES: GOOD FOR DRINKING WATER, POOR FOR SPREAD OF
INVASIVE SPECIES
CHICAGO (Oct. 2, 2001)

According to the State of the Great Lakes 2001 report, recently released by
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, the condition
of the Great Lakes ranges from "good" for drinking water quality to "poor"
for the impacts of invasive species.

The latest review of the health of the Great Lakes shows that drinking
water quality, the health of walleye and the reduction of contaminants in
nesting water birds were good signs. However, urban sprawl, airborne
pollution and invasive species have taken their toll.  Due to sprawl, more
than two-thirds of wetlands in the Great Lakes basin have been lost during
the past 200 years and those that remain are seriously threatened.

The report assesses 33 ecosystem health indicators. About 25 percent of the
indicators were good or improving, 25 percent were poor or deteriorating
and the rest demonstrated mixed results.  The indicators were used to
develop ratings for the Great Lakes as a whole and for each of the five
Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River
corridor.  This report is the fourth bi-national assessment since 1996 and
is based on information presented at the 2000 State of the Great Lakes
conference.

"Levels of toxic chemical contamination have dropped in many fish species,"
said Thomas Skinner, Region 5 administrator and U.S. Great Lakes Program
manager.  "However, many fish are still unsafe to eat.  Contaminant levels
will need to continue to decline for many years before advisories can be
lifted or modified."

The 33 indicators in the report are part of a set of 80 indicators that
were chosen in a bi-national program in the late 1990s to assess the health
of the lakes and to help make better management decisions. The remaining 47
indicators are being developed or are in the information collection stage.

"Indicators allow scientists and managers to examine air, land, water and
living organisms, as well as economic and human health issues, to paint a
big picture of the state of the lakes," said Paul Horvatin, U.S. conference
chair.

Here are some of the findings of the 2001 State of the Great Lakes report.

* The effort to reduce the amount of phosphorous in the lakes has paid off
by reducing the number of algae blooms;

* Surface waters are still among the best sources of drinking water in the
world;

* Progress has been made both in cleaning up contaminants and in
rehabilitating some fish and wildlife species;

* Steadily increasing number of people living in the basin will result in
more phosphorus entering the lakes, this will require additional control
measures;

* Invasive species, such as zebra mussels, round gobys and purple
loosestrife, continue to be a significant threat to Great Lakes biological
communities;

* Air deposition of contaminants from  sources  outside the basin make it
virtually impossible to eliminate toxic substances;

* Urban sprawl threatens high-quality natural areas, rare species, farmland
and open space;

* Development, drainage and pollution are shrinking coastal wetlands; and

* Swimming advisories caused by high levels of bacteria  are becoming more
frequent

For more information on SOLEC and the Great Lakes, visit
http://binational.net/

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