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Great Lakes Water Quality - Impacts of Great Lakes Water Quality Issues

Essay by   •  July 14, 2011  •  Case Study  •  3,495 Words (14 Pages)  •  1,856 Views

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Abstract

This paper will introduce a research question about the Great Lakes to investigate, "What type of pollution is not only most threatening to the Great Lakes, and what are the most efficient ways of cleaning up these issues?" The paper will begin with a brief historical background about past efforts and ideas about pollution in the Great Lakes. It is important to analyze past efforts in order to help determine present and future implications. In addition to this, the paper will examine four different articles each with different opinions about the most threatening type of pollution in the Great Lakes region. It is through the exploration of these different articles that the research question will attempted to be answered. The paper ends with a discussion about the findings and compares the different ideas mentioned in the throughout the body. A final analysis, including rhetorical questions along with personal opinions, will wrap up the research paper and tie everything together.

Impacts of Great Lakes Water Quality Issues

At one point in time people believed that water was capable of diluting toxic substances to the point of making them harmless, when in reality this is not the case. Certain toxins in the lakes will continue no matter how much water is in the lake. The United States and Canada realized that the health of the Great Lakes could be best achieved by working together, and since the 1970s both countries have been striving toward a cleaner Great Lakes system (Pielou, 1998). Together the two countries have come up with some good proactive legislation aimed to address this issue. According to Pielou (1998), The International Joint Commission was created as a result of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. They conducted studies on the water quality of the Great Lakes in the 1960s, determining that excessive phosphorus was causing eutrophication in the Great Lakes, particularly in lakes Ontario and Erie (Pielou, 1998). In response to this study, the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972. This established pollution control levels mainly to reduce phosphorus levels in lakes Ontario and Erie (Pielou, 1998).

In 1978, the agreement was revised to increase this effort in all of the Great Lakes. It also called for the elimination of all POP's being discharged into lakes. This amended agreement focused on the Great Lakes as a connected system and established an objective to restore and maintain "the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem"(Pielou, 1998). This piece of legislation has been most recently renewed in 1987. This time it focused on nonpoint source pollution, contaminated sediments, and airborne pollutants. This time, new management approaches were also established. These approaches included the Remedial Action Plans and Lake wide Management Plans (RAP). The RAP's were to focus on the 43 geographic areas of concern and the lake wide management plans were designed to improve the environmental quality of the open waters of each of the Great Lakes, focusing on certain pollutants. Pielou (1998) discussed that reports started being generated to regulate the effectiveness of these pieces of legislation, the most recent of which was published in 2000. This report acknowledged that progress is being made by the two countries but much more needs to be done, especially to control the rise of contaminated sediments and airborne pollutants.

Today, the Great Lakes are still being polluted and continue to be a growing threat to our health and existence. This research paper will examine different articles pertaining to different kinds of pollution in the Great Lakes. Through this examination it will try to be determined what type of pollution is the most threatening the lakes themselves and the surrounding regions, as well as what is the most successful way to solve this problem. Finding the answer to this question is vital to our understanding of the damages pollution can cause to the Great Lakes and key to obtaining sustainability for the future. In order to better understand the damages pollution causes to the Great Lakes, the different types of pollution have to be examined. Sandin (2001), a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, was interested in studying nonpoint source pollution and the effects it has on the Great Lakes. According to Sandin (2001) nonpoint source pollution is one way pollution enters bodies of water. It comes from many different diffuse sources and is extremely difficult to regulate and control. An example of the most common type of nonpoint source pollutant is urban and rural runoff. Sandin (2001) makes it clear that he believes this is the most threatening to the Great Lakes. The article goes on to talk about how the idea of nonpoint source pollution has evolved over the years. Originally it was theorized that runoff polluting the Great Lakes came strictly from farms and other agriculture. Sandin (2001) points out that it is not just farms and agriculture at fault, instead commercialization is at the heart of the problem. "We are the consumers who demand certain things sometimes only because they're marketed to us" (Sandin, 2001). This quote explains that all pollution comes from demand for goods, whether it's made in a factory or comes from a farm. I feel as if this is a very important statement in this day and age. I think that as long as we are a society based upon commercialization which continues to demand goods and services, pollution from runoff is something that is not going away anytime soon. Sandin (2001) also stated "Runoff degrades or threatens about 40% of the state's 44,000 miles of streams and rivers, 90% of its 15,037 inland lakes, many Great Lakes harbors, wetland areas and substantial groundwater sources". I think this quote by Sandin (2001) attributes most of pollution to commercialization, rather than residential runoff. I feel as though his thought process for determining the most threatening pollutant is a little misguided. As a society we need to be realistic about our thoughts because commercialization is never going to go away, thus maybe our focus should be somewhere else. I think that in the quest to find the most threatening pollutant it is very important to take into consideration a couple of different issues. First, how fixable each problem is and second how much resources would need to be used up in order to fix the problem. I believe that it is possible that one type of pollutant may be causing more direct harm to the lakes, but the amount of resources needed to fix it would vastly outweigh the problem itself.

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