Great Lakes Cleanup Could Help Midwest Economy

Cameron Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, is scheduled to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on May 21, when lawmakers are considering authorizing up to $150 million a year for cleaning up contaminated sediment and restoring aquatic habitat in the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Senate has introduced legislation (S 2994) to reauthorize and strengthen the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002, just two months after a Brookings Institution study projected major financial gains from investing in efforts to bring the Great Lakes back to health.

The bill would boost funding to revitalize former industrial waterfronts around the Great Lakes through 2013, many of which continue to cope with industrial pollution that has never been addressed.

"It's time to act," said Davis, who also serves as co-chair of the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition.

"It's time we leave our children a legacy of health, not a legacy of pollution. This legislation is a critical investment that will pay sharp dividends," he said.

A U.S.-Canadian list of more than 30 toxic hot spots, or "areas of concern," established 20 years ago remains essentially the same today, with just one site cleaned up and de-listed.

Two recent Brookings Institution studies show that a federal investment in restoring the Great Lakes – including sediment cleanups – will result in about a 3-to-1 return. Tainted sediments are a chief public health concern in the Great Lakes basin. The contaminants they harbor – such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin, mercury, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons -- work their way up the food chain to contaminate fish and the people who eat them. Studies show links to cancer and reproductive problems in animals and people as well as lowered intelligence and developmental delays in children.

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, developed by 1,500 people representing agencies, public interest groups, businesses, and other stakeholders from around the region, has recommended that the act be improved in a number of ways, including:

•increasing available funding to a level sufficient to reach the goal of cleaning up all contaminated sediment sites in the areas of concern by 2020.

•working toward better alternatives for sediment removal and disposal by providing more funding for projects that use innovative demonstration and pilot methods.

A live Web cast is expected to be available at 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday at http://transportation.house.gov/subcommittees/WaterResources.aspx.

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