Canadian Facilities In Great Lakes Basin Emit More Air Pollution Than U.S. Counterparts

Canadian facilities in the Great Lakes basin emitted 73 percent more air pollution per facility in 2002 than their U.S. counterparts, according a new report released on Feb. 8 by PollutionWatch partner organizations Environmental Defense and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

In total, Canadian and U.S. facilities in the Great Lakes basin spewed more than 101 million kilograms (101,907,241 kg) of pollution into the air (To convert kilograms to pounds, multiply the number of kilograms by 2.205). Canadian facilities accounted for 49,471,016 kilograms of the total air releases while U.S. facilities released 52,436,225 kilograms of pollutants into the air, the groups state.

The report, Partners in Pollution: An Assessment of Continuing Canadian and United States Contributions to Great Lakes Pollution, is based on data submitted by Canadian companies to Environment Canada for its national reporting program, the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), and to EPA for its Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The 2002 matched NPRI and TRI data are the most recently available. Partners in Pollution is the first report in a decade to focus on pollution levels in the Great Lakes ecosystem using NPRI and TRI data. The report reveals that more than 4,100 Great Lakes facilities in Canada and the U.S. released and transferred more than 627 million kilograms (627,243,035 kg) of pollutants in the Great Lakes ecosystem basin.

"The health of the Great Lakes is in real trouble because we forget pollution is still a real issue," said Paul Muldoon, executive director, Canadian Environmental Law Association. "We call on the new Canadian government to seize this opportunity to set an agenda to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem from pollution and other human-induced stresses. The presence of fish consumption advisories around the basin is a clear signal that the Lakes are still polluted."

Canadian facilities also fared worse for releasing air pollution associated with potential health effects. On a per facility basis , Canadian matched facilities released on average 79 percent more respiratory toxins to the air than TRI facilities, and 93 percent more known or suspected cancer-causing pollutants. Between 1998 and 2002, core Canadian facilities increased their air releases by 3 percent, while core U.S. facilities decreased air pollution by 24 percent. The trend in air pollution is analyzed using core facilities that reported consistently in Canada and the U.S. between 1998 and 2002, and core pollutants reported over the same time period.

"There's no getting around it. Canada is doing a worse job on Great Lakes pollution than the United States," said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director, Environmental Defense. "The new Conservative government needs to act now to get serious about reducing pollution in the Great Lakes and protecting Canadians' health."

Canadian facilities accounted for half of the Top 10 Air Polluters in the Great Lakes basin, and were responsible for 61 percent of reported air pollution among the Top 10.

"High pollution levels in the Great Lakes basin continue to take an apparent toll on the air and water quality of the ecosystem. It's remarkable to think that the U.S. government would try to limit the availability of data when this report clearly indicates that more comprehensive bi-national monitoring is necessary," said Derek Stack, executive director, Great Lakes United. "Funding research and ultimately accelerating pollution reduction through available practical strategies should be a priority for U.S. and Canadian governments."

Partners in Pollution makes 15 recommendations to governments on both sides of the border to reduce and eliminate pollution in the Great Lakes , including:

  • Develop an inclusive, common database to determine the annual loading of all pollutants, including all persistent toxic substances to the Great Lakes.
  • Develop and implement a bi-national pollution elimination and reduction strategy that builds upon, and significantly expands, the Bi-national Great Lakes Toxics Strategy.
  • Reconfirm their commitment to the virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances and expand that goal to include carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
  • Commit to reaching the prescribed targets through pollution prevention measures which would include the application of green chemistry and materials substitution.
  • Enhance and expand the U.S. TRI and the Canadian NPRI programs , including rejection of the proposal to collect TRI data every two years, and other burden reduction proposals.

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This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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