The most toxic hot spots around the Great Lakes would receive an extrafifty million dollars in clean-up funds, if a Clinton administrationbudget proposal goes through. But some environmental groups don’t wantthe money dribbled out in small doses. They argue the best thing to dowould be to spend all the cash on comprehensive clean-up projects atjust a few sites. The idea is controversial, as the Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
The most toxic hot spots around the Great Lakes would receive an extra fifty million dollars in
clean-up funds, if a Clinton Administration budget proposal goes through. But some environmental
groups don’t want the money dribbled out in small doses. They argue the best thing to do would be
to spend all the cash on comprehensive clean-up projects at just a few sites. The idea is
controversial, as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’ s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
The most polluted parts of the Great Lakes are known as Areas
of Concern. There are over 40 of these hot spots in harbors and
bays, or in rivers that dump into the lakes. At many sites, the
pollution has led health agencies to tell people to be careful
about eating certain types of fish.
But that hasn’t stopped some anglers from doing their thing.
“That was the best cast I’ve
Marl and his buddy Paul are standing underneath an elevated
freeway in Milwaukee. They’re casting their fishing lines into
Lake Michigan for brown trout, perch or whatever wants to bite.
Through Milwaukee’s estuary, that’s the harbor and nearby rivers, is a toxic hot spot, Marl says he
pays little attention to fish consumption warnings.
“Whatever I catch I eat, I eat it on whatever basis I feel like eating it. If I want to eat fish
every night for a week, I eat it… doesn’t seem to affect me in any way.”
But nearby in the Milwaukee harbor, researchers point to pollution that seems to make the casual
approach to fish consumption here quite risky.
(sound of horn)
This tugboat is pushing a barge that’s about to take a load of coal from a huge coal pile at the
water’s edge. The pile is uncovered and during heavy rains or snowmelt, there’s runoff from the
coal into the harbor. Great Lakes researcher Jeffrey Foran says that’s hardly the only pollutant in
“It’s a virtual alphabet soup of pollution and we can name a few. PCBs, PAHs, contaminants from
sewage runoff historically, metals, cadmium chromium.”
Foran heads the Great Lakes Water Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He says
there’s actually been some improvement in the surface water quality over the last couple decades.
But Foran warns the sediment in the Milwaukee harbor by and large remains toxic muck, and those
toxins make their way into the food chain. Foran says Milwaukee’s problems aren’t unique.
“If you took the problems and simply dropped the name Milwaukee harbor, you could insert those
problems into probably the majority of areas of concern throughout the Great Lakes basin.”
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on cleanup work at the various sites, but only one
project – at Waukegan, Illinois – is largely done. So environmental groups hope Congress during its
EPA budget deliberations this spring will approve the extra 50 million dollars in cleanup funds
President Clinton proposed. But Great Lakes United executive director Margaret Wooster says the
money should be targeted to just a few hot spots.
“And do the complete cleanup right. From soup to nuts kind of thing. That is the initial making
sure if there’s a polluter, polluter pays their fair share as has happened in many cases, to good
Wooster also says there needs to be good places to dump the dredged material. Then should come
monitoring to make sure the water body doesn’t become fouled again, if there are more
success stories around the Great Lakes, environmentalists believe
lawmakers will then allocate additional money to finish work on
the other sites. But the Great Lakes community isn’t completely
sold on the targeting of funds. William Smith is a citizen
advisor to the Clinton river area of concern north of Detroit.
He wonders how fast news of complete clean-ups would spread.
“And when these one demonstration projects are done,
they’re distant. You hear about them the transfer of information
is long is coming. And sure it’s nice for some harbor to go after
this. But if you’re looking across the board on the Great Lakes
it would be much better used to go after problems in individual
Areas of Concern instead of 2 to 3 separate sites.”
funneling just a million or two dollars to some of Michigan’s
smaller hot spots would move clean-up of those sites forward in a
big way. That’s because state officials would probably match the
federal funds. But whether the federal money is targeted to a
couple sites or divided evenly in all the areas, Smith does agree
with the large environmental groups on one thing. He says the
recreation and drinking water needs of Great Lakes citizens
should prompt Congress to approve the president’s plan.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.