Great Lakes Face Continuing Environmental Threats

While overall water quality in the Great Lakes has improved over the past 30 years, the lakes still face dire threats from chemical pollution, pathogens, and invasive species, according to the biennial report on the lakes’ water quality from the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission. The report hailed the reduction of several pollutants, but drew attention to airborne mercury and common fire retardants, both of which are on the rise. It warned that the profligate use of antibiotics in livestock and humans is leading to a rise in “pathogens and disease-bearing microorganisms” that endanger human health. And it flagged the ongoing rise in invasive species in the lakes; a new one takes hold roughly every eight months, and while some have been contained, none have been eliminated. The U.S. EPA and Environment Canada have formed a joint committee which will make recommendations for shaping up the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, taking into account the new findings.