Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Appalling" Results Of Great Lakes Sewage Report Card

Nov 29: The Canadian-based, Sierra Legal Defense Fund released its first Great Lakes Sewage Report Card -- an investigative report that analyzes twenty cities in the Great Lakes basin and grades them based on how well they manage their sewage. In a release the organization said, "The results are appalling." Although many cities have made efforts to clean up their act, waters surrounding urban areas throughout the Great Lakes are still commonly unsafe for recreational use and many parts of the vast freshwater ecosystem are in peril. Report author Dr. Elaine MacDonald said, “The Great Lakes basin is one of the most important freshwater ecosystems on the planet -- holding one fifth of the world's freshwater. Yet, the twenty cities we evaluated are dumping the equivalent of more than 100 Olympic swimming pools full of raw sewage directly into the Great Lakes every single day.”

The Great Lakes Sewage Report Card represents the first-ever ecosystem-based survey and analysis of municipal sewage treatment and sewage discharges in the Great Lakes basin. The report grades cities on issues such as collection, treatment and disposal of sewage based on information provided by each municipality. The report documents that many cities in the region have antiquated systems for collecting and treating sewage and regularly release untreated sewage into local waterways. It is estimated that the 20 cities evaluated, representing a third of the region’s 35 million people, dump more than 90 billion liters [approximately 24 billion gallons] of untreated sewage into the Great Lakes each year.

According to a release, the results are disappointing, with cities like Toronto, Syracuse and Hamilton getting below average grades. Detroit (ranked worst), Cleveland and Windsor performed "abysmally and are at the bottom of the class." The cities that fared poorly typically have serious problems related to their combined sewers; antiquated systems that combine storm water and sanitary sewers into a single pipe and are prone to releasing raw sewage during wet weather. Green Bay, Peel Region and Duluth are at the top of the class. All three generally have more sophisticated treatment processes and permit very little sewage to escape into the environment through combined sewer overflows, spills or bypasses.

The 20 cities evaluated in the report include: Cleveland (Ohio), Detroit (Michigan), Duluth (Minnesota), Erie (Pennsylvania), Grand Rapids (Michigan), Green Bay (Wisconsin), Hamilton (Ontario), Kingston (Ontario), London (Ontario), Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Niagara Region (Ontario), Peel Region (Ontario), Rochester (New York), Sarnia (Ontario), Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), Sudbury, (Ontario) Syracuse (New York), Thunder Bay (Ontario), Toronto (Ontario), Windsor (Ontario).

In addition to grading the cities, the report provides an analysis of the region’s patchwork of sewage treatment laws and policies, and offers several recommendations to ensure the protection of water quality in the Great Lakes for future generations.

Sierra Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, charitable organization funded by public donations and foundations grants consisting of more than 40 lawyers, scientists and support staff at offices in Vancouver and Toronto. The organization has over 30,000 individual supporters across Canada.

Access a release (
click here). Access background information (click here). Access the complete 57-page report (click here). Access the Sierra Legal website for additional information (click here). [*GLakes]