Aakriti Pandey | Contributor
Editor's Note: This article is part of a new initiative to include stories on our blog that link scientific policy to everyday life. Recently, the new administration proposed changes to the EPA budget that would gut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which could impact the water quality of major cities (e.g. Chicago, Milwaukee)
An upward slope
1972 was the year that marked the turning point for Great Lakes, Michigan. It was the year when Congress passed the federal Clean Water Act, and as a result, the water quality did improve in most expanses of the North American rivers and lakes, the contaminants' concentration declined, and many fisheries across the nation recuperated too. The Great Lakes today are far improved than they did back in 1972.
However, there's a host of new problems today that are affecting both, the nature and the people, again. From the dissemination of the foreign mussels and other invasive aquatic species, sewer and pollution overflows caused by some severe storms, introduction of other contaminants in the lakes including the pharmaceuticals and fire retardants, to the overall climate change... the ecology of the Great Lakes have been turned upside down again. The Lake Michigan car ferry SS Badger has dumped about 500 tons of polluted coal ash into the lake every year. There are cities with archaic sewer systems, and they expel tens of billions of gallons of sewage into the lakes annually.
With this, not only are the lives of aquatic species in danger, but this is also deeply affecting human health. People who call places like Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and many other cities alongside the Lake Michigan their home, draw their drinking water from the Great Lakes. And their lives are in danger.
An initiative was given birth in 2010 with a vision to protect and restore this largest system of fresh surface water in the world. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) intended to accelerate efforts to "strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem". With plans to clean up the areas of concern, control the invasive species, reduce nutrient runoff, and restore habitat, the GLRI gave sight of the dim light at the end of the tunnel.
And the new downward spiral?
Those who've been grateful for the GLRI are now holding their breaths again as this plan is close to being very short-lived because the new administration announced plans for a $50 million cut from the GLRI funding as part of the new EPA budget.
For one, it's important for initiatives like this to study the impacts of these types of inevitable accidents. More importantly, it's also of momentous value to collectively remain vigilant as a community about what's happening in our environment and surroundings.
Very recent events highlight the need for initiatives like GLRI to remain funded. For example, U.S. Steel Corporation also recently accidentally released hexavalent chromium into Lake Michigan, forcing the interception of drinking water intake in the local communities and a closing of many beaches.
Hydroviv's water nerds have a "Help no matter what" technical support policy, and we always answer your drinking-water related questions, regardless of your intent to purchase our products.
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