WASHINGTON (AP) - Thirty years after Canada and the United States agreed to clean up the Great Lakes, the waters remain too polluted for unrestricted fishing and swimming, according to a report released Thursday by a commission monitoring the work.
The International Joint Commission, created in 1972, found that progress in cleaning up the Great Lakes was slow and many challenges remain, such as ridding the waters of invasive species and contaminated sediments.
Pollution from industry and development settles to the bottom of the rivers and waterways of the Great Lakes, where it can be stirred up naturally or by dredging. Research shows that contaminated sediment has caused tumors and impaired reproduction in fish, caused birth defects in birds and mammals and increased cancer risk in people.
"This is really a public health problem," said Dennis Schornack, who represents the United States on the commission. "It's not that we are dissatisfied with the cleanup efforts that are going on, but the pace is so slow and the lack of a focal point and resources ... is somewhat lacking."
Schornack said the governments of both countries need to commit substantially more resources to clean up the Great Lakes, which supply drinking water to more than 30 million people and have more than 600 beaches on U.S. shores.