2 | Pollution...
Before we get into the individual Great Lakes AOCs, let's talk about pollution. AOCs are affected by all kinds of different forms of pollution, although there are some similarities.
Did you ever think that dirt could be a pollutant? Dirt is a conventional pollutant, and while it's not dangerous in itself, large amounts, often coming from agriculture, forestry, and construction industries, can make water unusable for drinking and swimming, and can destroy fragile aquatic life. Excess dirt also leads to stream sedimentation, altering the stream's flow and choking out aquatic life.
Airborne toxic contaminants, such as car emissions and the burning of other fossil fuels, can enter the atmosphere and come back down to the land in the form of acid rain (see the hydrologic cycle). Atmospheric deposition is believed to cause about 90% of Great Lakes toxins.
Although heavy metals are naturally found in the earth's crust, these chemicals have been used for pesticides and in industrial processes, and prolonged exposure can cause deadly health effects. Heavy metals, such as DDT, dioxins and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), can contaminate drinking water and accumulate in animal tissue, such as the fish you eat (see fish consumption advisories).
Wastewater and sewage
Wastewater, often produced by industries, and sewage are usually treated in a wastewater treatment facility, and then safely released back into a water body through a point source. However, wastewater and sewage can enter water bodies untreated, such as during a strong rainstorm that causes combined sewer overflows, and the bacteria contained in these discharges, such as E. coli and heavy metals, can be deadly.
When it rains or the snow melts, water runs over land, picking up anything on the ground and this runoff, also called nonpoint source pollution, eventually finds its way into water bodies. Contaminated runoff comes from a variety of sources, such as the agricultural, mining, and forestry industries and contaminated soil erosion. Runoff can also contribute to adding excess nutrients to water, leading to eutrophication.
Did you know that when you water your lawn or wash your car, you could be contributing to water pollution? Check out what you can do to prevent water pollution. And just for kids!
... and solutions!
Remedial Action Plans (RAPs)
A RAP is made for each individual AOC by identifying the source of pollution and the beneficial use impairments, and then establishing plans for the cleanup effort.
Lakewide Management Plan (LaMPs)
LaMPs are focused on the ecosystem health of an individual Great Lake as a whole, rather than on just an area of concern.
Government, public, and private entities work together to form both RAPs and LaMPs, and the International Joint Commission (IJC) is charged with reviewing these programs.
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