Building a Great Lakes toxic legacy

A dredging barge on the Great Lakes digs up tainted sediment.

Millions of dollars have been spent cleaning historic Great Lakes contamination. Millions more are sought. Does it make sense to clean the lakes before the pollution sources are eliminated?

A look at toxic fallout.

An ill wind blows no good
As contaminated sediment is cleaned up in the Great Lakes, persistent pollutants continue to blow in, threatening again to poison soil and harm human health. That has some experts questioning if it’s worthwhile to spend money to remove toxic sediments if they will once more become contaminated in a matter of years.

Great Lakes or great sink? Pollutants produced abroad and still circulating at home threaten water quality
Indian cement plants, Russian incinerators and Chinese farms send large amounts of persistent pollutants to the Great Lakes. Climate change may further complicate the issue.

Toxaphene – A stubborn pollutant persists
The largest, deepest and coldest Great Lake holds another distinction, – it has the highest levels of toxaphene found in the region and possibly anywhere in the world. Since federal bans on persistent pollutants in the 1970s and 80s, most chemical concentrations have declined in the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes fish eaters less contaminated than a decade ago
Anglers who ate Great Lakes fish have 33 percent fewer PCBs and 43 percent less DDT in their bodies than they did a decade ago, largely because they changed their diet and switched to less contaminated fish, according to a study by Wisconsin researchers.

Other toxic contamination stories from Echo and elsewhere.

  • Shannon

    I understand all the tech stuff, what I do not understand is why we as Americans enjoy putting the blame on our neighbor Canada when our history and present day plants tells the truth. The black river is full of mercury from using the river to send down logs full of mercury, as many times as we dredged the Black River and move around the tons of mercury still in the river and it ebbs into the St. Clair River.There is the paper company, what was American Tape that has changed it’s name and still spews out tons of toxin. Lest we also forget the companies that illegally dump into the sewers. Yet we still want to blame Canada I am lost on this.

  • Joe Bohr

    The MDEQ Water Bureau has been analyzing fish regularly from several sites in the Great Lakes and inland waters since the early 90s. PCBs, DDT, & chlordane have been steadily declining over that period. The data suggest that toxaphene in fish has been declining as well. Mercury on the other hand has been slowly increasing in Great Lakes fish, but no real trends have been detected in inland waters.

    Joe Bohr
    Aquatic Biologist
    Water Bureau / Michigan Dept. Environmental Quality
    517.373.4704 bohrj@michigan.gov