Today, Canada and the US are signing a renegotiated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreementat the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Exactly how each country makes good on their commitments is not expected to be part of the Agreement. Each country determines how they will achieve its goals and objectives.
Environmental organizations say that while shared goals are positive, the challenge is the Agreement isn’t immediately binding on either country. They say a proposed law in Ontario needs to fill this void, helping to give teeth to the goals outlined today.
Bill 100, the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act, was introduced by the Ontario government in June, 2012. If enacted, it would provide additional tools to meet some of Canada’s commitments under the Agreement to be signed in Washington.
“No jurisdiction has more Great Lakes shoreline than Ontario. So it’s in an ideal position to take clear steps that put today’s goals into action,” said Claire Malcolmson, Water Programs Manager at Environmental Defence. “Water pollution, algae-covered shoreline hotspots, and fish die-offs will not stop unless we take steps to reduce pollution, on the ground, in Ontario.”
She used algae blooms—caused in part by phosphorous—as an example. Reducing phosphorous in the Great Lakes is one of the goals of the Agreement signed today. But meeting that objective needs the co-operation of states and provinces, so Ontario’s proposed law would enable mandatory reductions in the places where phosphorus reduction is necessary. This would be especially beneficial to Lake Erie.
“Improving water quality in the Great Lakes will protect and benefit endangered and threatened species and the Ontario communities that depend on this resource,” said Dr. Anastasia Lintner, economist and staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “But defending the Great Lakes from toxic pollution and habitat destruction will require strong leadership and cooperation from all of Ontario’s elected officials.”