New report describes Great Lakes as ‘dumping ground for our toxic waste’

Lake Erie algae blooms

There is an unsettling new report from the Council of Canadians that suggests we have been treating the Great Lakes very, very badly.

The report, titled Blue Betrayal (if that isn’t menacing enough) accuses Ottawa of ignoring environmental issues in favour of the interests of the energy industry, according to the Toronto Star. Authors of the report cite climate change, industrial farming, oil, gas and mineral extraction, and the continuous dumping of waste as some of the largest threats to our water supplies.

The findings come after many recent federal government decisions that make our diminishing freshwater resources more vulnerable, including the cancellation of the world’s leading freshwater institute—the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Kenora, Ontario—that has been used to investigate various types of water pollution (and their effects) in 58 area lakes since 1968.

Included in the report is the shocking revelation that there are more than 200 pollutants in the Great Lakes, including hazardous microscopic plastic particles that end up in the fish, which were also studied. It was found that most species contain high levels of mercury, dioxinsand lead.

Most troubling for the Great Lakes communities (and the 40 million people on either side of the border, who rely on the freshwater sources for livelihood) is the recurring presence of toxic blue-green algae, which often comes from agricultural runoff and creates large, smelly blooms.

Overall, the report predicts a spike in demand for water in the coming years that will coincide with the decrease of our natural, fresh supply.

The Star mentions a cautionary tale out of Toledo last summer, where 500,000 area residents were told that they could not cook, bathe or drink the water that ran from their taps after a overgrowth of algae blooms strangled the water supply.