Windsor

Canada, U.S. slowly addressing chemical pollution in Great Lakes

American and Canadian governments have been slow to address chemical pollution in the Great Lakes, according to the International Joint Commission (IJC); however, they are making some progress.

International Joint Commission says it's important to get a handle on new chemicals in the Great Lakes

Blue-green algae in the Great Lakes. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press)

American and Canadian governments have been slow to address chemical pollution in the Great Lakes, according to the International Joint Commission (IJC).

The commission wants governments on both sides of the border to follow the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and speed up the process of identifying chemicals of mutual concern.

"It's important to note that the governments are beginning this process and this is a new agreement," said Michael Mezzacapo, University of Michigan Sea Grant Fellow. "It does take a little bit of time for things to ramp up and really stop spinning their wheels and eventually they're going to get some traction."

However, Mezzacapo, who works in the commission's Windsor headquarters, does say there is a bit of progress being made.

You only have to look toward the past to understand why it's important to address these items now.- Michael Mezzacapo, International Joint Commission

"You only have to look toward the past to understand why it's important to address these items now and why we should be concerned," said Mezzacapo.

"Because it's important to get a handle on especially the new and emerging chemicals like these flame retardants because we're not really sure what the overall impact will be," he said.

The IJC is responsible for regulating shared water uses between Canada and the U.S., as well as investigating transboundary issues and recommending solutions. Pollution levels in the Great Lakes have been dramatically reduced over the past 40 years.

Chemicals in fish decreasing

Another "wonderful trend" across the Great Lakes is the decreasing concentration of PCBs in fish tissue, which is a chemical called polychlorinated biphenyls.

A silver carp that was caught approximately 14 kilometres away from Lake Michigan. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)

It's not just the government that is responsible for the Greak Lakes. Everyone has a part to play in making sure the waterways are clean, Mezzacapo said.

Use cinnamon instead of pesticides

He recommends individuals help by taking care with the products they use on their lawns and gardens. Finding natural alternatives to pesticides or herbicides can also help.

"Instead of using a pesticide, you can use cinnamon to retract ants from your kitchen countertop," Mezzacapo.

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