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Report gives Great Lakes health a mixed review

Release Date: 06/07/2007
Contact Information: Kären Thompson, (312) 353-8547, thompson.karen@epa.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 07-OPA094

CHICAGO (June 7, 2007) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada today released the 2007 State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report at the International Joint Commission meeting in Chicago.

Overall, the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem is mixed, with some conditions improving while others are getting worse.

Every two years the Great Lakes community reports on the condition of the Great Lakes ecosystem at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference. The last conference was held Nov. 1-3, 2006, in Milwaukee, Wis. The State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report summarizes the information provided in indicator reports presented at the biennial conference.

The 2007 State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report, for the first time, includes a section on "What is Being Done to Improve Conditions." According to Gary Gulezian, EPA Great Lakes National Program Office Director, "As never before, legislators, managers, scientists, educators and the Great Lakes community are working together to understand and respond to Great Lakes environmental challenges." These efforts to restore and preserve the Great Lakes are spotlighted in the 2007 SOLEC Highlights Report.

The good news is:

  • Over the past 30 years there has been a marked reduction in the levels of toxic chemicals in the air, water, flora, fauna and sediment.
  • Great Lakes continue to be a good source for treated drinking water.
  • In 2005, 74 percent of monitored Great Lakes beaches in the U.S. and Canada were open more than 95 per cent of the swimming season. Wildlife waste can be more of a contributing factor in bacterial contamination than previously thought.
  • Air quality is improving, although there still are regional areas that continue to have ozone and smog problems.
  • Significant natural reproduction of lake trout is occurring in lakes Huron and Superior.
  • The bad news is:
  • New chemicals of concern, like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants) and various pharmaceutical and personal care products are being detected more frequently.
  • Decline in contaminant concentrations has not eliminated the need for sport fish consumption advisories.
  • Non-native species (zebra mussels, spiny water fleas) continue to invade the Great Lakes and impair the food web.
  • Declines in the duration and extent of ice cover on the Great Lakes and declines in lake levels due to evaporation during the winter are expected to occur in future years.
  • Continuing wetlands loss and degradation results in loss of habitat for birds, amphibians, fish and wildlife.
  • Aquatic habitats on the coasts continue to deteriorate due to development, shoreline hardening and non-native species.
For the State of the Great Lakes 2007 Highlights Report and other documents about Great Lakes indicators and the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences, visit www.binational.net or www.epa.gov/glnpo/solec.
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