Lakes and streams in New England have been slow to recover from the ill effects of acid rain, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. EPA. The regional reduction in acid rain lagged 10 percent behind the national rate of 40 percent in the 1990s; more worrisome, the number of “acidic systems” in New England fell by just 2 percent, whereas other areas of the country experienced dramatic improvements. (For example, the number of acidic lakes in the upper Midwest dropped by 68 percent, in the Adirondacks by 38 percent, and in the Northern Appalachians by 28 percent.) Scientists speculate that the soil in New England has lost its ability to neutralize acids and therefore the entire ecosystem will be slower to recuperate from the effects of years of acid rain. However, they hailed the report’s findings of strong recoveries in other regions as evidence of the success of cutting back on the pollutants that cause acid rain.