Slow progress on Great Lakes Toxins

September 2017 – Several improvements have been recommended to the planned management and elimination of PCB’s, and HBCD’s (Flame Retardants) in the Great Lakes, by a coalition of NGO’s from Canada and the U.S., including FOCA.

image of the letterAccording to this letter (download link is below), the proposed management of these “chemicals of mutual concern(CMC)” can be improved by including:

  • targets related to the reductions, and targets for how much each of the planned measures will take us towards those goals
  • reference to how the proposed measures and strategies address the goals of virtual elimination and zero discharge in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) (a fundamental commitment that Canada and the U.S. made when they signed the CMC commitments in Annex 3 of the GLWQA)
  • a legislative and regulatory gap analysis, which could reveal needs and opportunities to review or identify other laws or regulations required to adequately address the CMCs
  • timelines; the lack of specific reduction timelines creates uncertainty in the governments’ efforts, and makes it impossible to hold the governments accountable to their commitments.

Read the whole submission in the NGO Submission on Binational Strategies for PCBs and HBCD (PDF, 24 pages)


June 20, 2015 – Three years after the signing of the revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) , there has been only modest progress on the provisions to deal with chemicals in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem which continue to pose a threat to human health and/or the environment.

FOCA was a signatory to a letter sent today to the Great Lakes representatives of Environment Canada, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, encouraging better progress on identifying and taking action on Chemicals of Mutual Concern.

CELA Report Toxic Chemicals in Great Lakes Basin June 2015The letter, authored by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), was signed by more than 20 interested health and environmental groups from both sides of the border, including FOCA.

The letter emphatically states that progress must be accelerated to identify, prioritize, and act on the threats posed by these chemicals. Along with the letter, CELA provided a detailed background report, “Advancing Prevention of Toxic Chemicals in the Great Lakes Basin: An ENGO perspective on current binational efforts.” (PDF; 52 pages)

Within the stated purposes of “Annex 3” of the GLWQA are obligations for both nations to protect human health and the environment, recognizing that these chemicals, when released into the air, water, land, sediment, and biota should not result in impairment to the quality of the Waters of the Great Lakes; and,  the need to manage chemicals by implementing measures to achieve virtual elimination and zero discharge of these chemicals.

This includes known toxins and persistent chemicals, but also emerging classes of chemicals of potential concern, including pharmaceuticals and personal care products that could adversely affect the health of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.

As this June 22, 2015 editorial from the Toronto Star  points out, the future of the Great Lakes is vital to the well-being of millions of Canadians and Americans, and that demands deeper and more vigorous protection.

Terry ReesSlow progress on Great Lakes Toxins