Illegal Dumping Pushes Up Toxic Contamination in Great Lakes

Toxic pollution in Great Lakes waterways has jumped 25 percent over the past six years, thanks at least in part to rampant illegal discharges from large industrial facilities and sewer plants. Meanwhile, government enforcement efforts on both the national and state levels are stagnating, meaning that most of the violators don’t get punished. In Michigan, for example, the state Department of Environmental Quality now has only five employees working on enforcement of water laws — not nearly enough to catch all the violators. “You’re looking at people violating limits sometimes by 1,000 percent and they’re doing it for years and years,” said Eric Schaeffer, former head of the EPA’s enforcement division and now director of the Rockefeller Family Fund’s Environmental Integrity Project. “It threatens the whole Clean Water Act.”