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GLIN==> toxic releases and review of the great lakes water quality agreement

Dear member of the Great Lakes environmental community,

We would like to invite you to participate in two or more phone conversations over the next month to discuss toxics releases to the Great Lakes basin and the upcoming review and possible renegotiation of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The agreement now focuses on toxic substances, but how it does so could be revised, and the agreement could also be broadened to address other issues, such as habitat or aquatic invasive species. The review and possible renegotiation are scheduled to take place starting in May and continue through next year.

We are holding eight series of calls among environmentalists about the separate issues already or potentially connected to the review. If you would like to be involved in the toxics substances calls (or any of the calls, see the list below), please send an email to Reg Gilbert at reg@glu.org indicating your time availability for the period Wednesday, April 12, to Friday, May 5.

The review will look at how well the governments have lived up to their commitments to limit, eliminate, and cleanup toxics releases, and could result in recommendations to make revised or entirely new commitments  to better achieve the aims of the agreement. The purpose of this call (and the other issue calls) is to empower citizens to participate in the review, and to help us all figure out what positions to take during the review.

Please let us know of your interest in being on the call by the end of the day, Tuesday, April 11.

For more information on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, connect to http://www.greatlakesforever.org/html/glwqa.html

Issue calls being scheduled include:

(Current issues found in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement:)

> Toxic substances
> Remedial Action Plans and contaminated sediment
> Monitoring and research
> Coastal health (mostly sewage and non-point discharges)
> Governance (structures to assure that governments fulfill the terms of the agreement)

(New issues that could possibly be included in the agreement:)

> Aquatic invasive species
> Habitat, species, and biodiversity
> Climate change


The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was first negotiated in 1972 to control sewage discharges to the lakes. It was updated in 1978 and 1987 to address toxic substances and highly contaminated "Areas of Concern" -- basin toxic hot spots. The Canadian and U.S. governments are now in the process of reviewing how well they have fulfilled their commitments under the agreement since their last review, held in 1999, and to consider whether or not they should make changes ("revise" the agreement) and possibly even add entirely new issues to the agreement ("renegotiate" the agreement).

The calls we are inviting you to participate in are not part of the official review process -- they are not part of the public "Review Working Groups" now being set up by the governments to carry out the first stage of their review. The calls we are inviting you to participate in are intended to inform and empower the environmental community to participate in the official process.

The official Review Working Groups will include all "stakeholders" and will begin work in May. The calls that are the topic of this message are intended for the environmental community only, and will begin work immediately.

We have written up a "guidance paper" on toxics substances and the review of the agreement. If you would like to see that document, and any of the seven documents we have prepared for the other issues, email Reg Gilbert at reg@glu.org for a copy.

What should citizens advocate?

Activists who have monitored the agreement for years, and in some cases decades, are divided over the wisdom of revision or renegotiation of the agreement.

On the one hand the agreement has weaknesses, has not been well implemented since the last revision in 1987, and does not address several issues of serious binational environmental concern. This would argue *for* revision or renegotiation of the agreement.

On the other hand, the federal governments in both countries are currently in the hands of leaders without a notable interest in environmental protection, and broadening the agreement beyond sewage and toxic substances could weaken its power to make a difference on those issues without necessarily doing much for other issues. This would argue against revision or renegotiation of the agreement.

Thus there is a need for issue-specific calls that allow members of the Great Lakes environmental community to discuss how well the agreement has addressed or might address various environmental problems. This will be followed by a discussion of the wisdom of changing or  broadening the agreement to solve the problems raised.

With these conversations as background, hopefully activists will be better prepared to participate in the official review process. Our hope is that we can find substantial consensus that will allow basin environmentalists to enter the review process with a unified position on what outcomes we would like to have achieved by the official review.

As noted above, we have written up a series of "guidance papers" on the eight issues that will be the subject of these calls. If you would like to see one of the papers, email Reg Gilbert at reg@glu.org for a copy.

Please get involved

We want to encourage basin environmental activists to participate in this review process to the greatest extent possible. There are two ways to do this:

1) Join the issue-specific calls among environmental activists that is the main subject of this email. The issues are listed immediately below. If you would like to be on one of the calls:

a) email Reg Gilbert at reg@glu.org
b) note the issue you are interested in (see list below)
c) list your time availability during the three-week period of Wednesday, April 12, through Friday, May 5

Please send this message by the end of the day Tuesday, April 11.

We hope to have the largest number of people on these calls, so please be as liberal as possible in listing your available times. For example, please list times when you might be traveling, but are otherwise available. Calls will be free to all participants.

2) You can also join the official government "Review Working Groups." For more information and to join a working group, download the 4-page government document at:

http://www.greatlakesforever.org/html/action/GLWQAWorkingGroupInvite.pdf .

If the above Web link breaks across two lines and does not work, piece together manually in your address bar. The complete address should have not spaces or hyphens.

The deadline for joining the official Review Working Groups listed in the official materials has been extended to April 26. First calls or meetings will be sometime in May.

Help us reach people

Please pass this message on to anyone you know is interested in this issue.

Please send Reg Gilbert an email at reg@glu.org a message indicating the issue (or issues) you are interested and your time availability by this Monday, April 10.

We hope to hear you on the calls.


Cameron Davis, Executive Director, Alliance for the Great Lakes
Derek Stack, Executive Director, Great Lakes United
Jeffrey Potter, Director of Communications Programs, Biodiversity Project
Fe De Leon, Researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association