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New Agreement Aims to Keep Great Lakes’ Water Clean

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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great-lakesThis week, the U.S. and Canada signed a historic update to the agreement to protect the water quality of the Great Lakes.

The lakes could use some help. The five Great Lakes have a history of being used as a dumping ground for pollution. The 30 million people who live in surrounding states are relying on them for drinking water. And in recent years, drilling firms are eyeing water from the region for “fracking” natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale.

Since this is an election year, the eight bordering states and the Canadian province of Ontario invited both presidential candidates to this year’s iteration of the annual Great Lakes summit, held this week in Cleveland, Ohio. The Obama campaign sent Carol Browner, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Policy. She reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to environmental protection and clean water and emphasized his record of investment in the region.

The Romney campaign sent no one, perhaps because the adjacent states are not electorally important, or perhaps because water is not a priority. In 14 answers to science topics provided by both campaigns to Scientific American, Romney mentioned only the need to “modernize” fresh water regulation.

The updated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement signed this year is a bid to update a commitment last revisited in 1987. New provisions in the agreement address everything from invasive species like zebra mussels or the Asian carp to the impacts of climate change on the lakes’ water levels. And the EPA unveiled investments in permeable concrete (to prevent runoff) and better stormwater management to help improve water quality in the Cleveland region specifically. After all, Lake Erie has come a long way since the days when its tributary, the Cuyahoga River, literally burned.

Image: Courtesy of NASA

David Biello About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Soccerdad 10:49 am 09/15/2012

    “The Romney campaign sent no one, perhaps because the adjacent states are not electorally important, or perhaps because water is not a priority.”

    Like these are the only two plausible explanations. Why would Romney attend, or send anyone to some obscure “summit” which would get virtually no press coverage? He’s not actually in government, at least not yet.

    Obama on the other hand can’t stretch out his arms in the White House without bumping into a half dozen or so czars. So he sends some bureaucrat while he himself uses up a few tanker trucks full of jet fuel going to another fundraiser, and gets full credit from the author.

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  2. 2. RSchmidt 12:01 pm 09/15/2012

    I’m surprised the Romney campaign didn’t send a water dowser or someone to lead a prayer to protect the region’s water. Of course the republican’s wouldn’t send a scientist because scientists are Satan’s angels. Oh and when Romney mentioned the need to “modernize” fresh water regulation, he meant to deregulate it. The republican stand on any resource issue is the same; exploit it to the full extent, and leave the pollution and environmental destruction for future generations to fix.

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  3. 3. Bops 5:17 pm 09/15/2012


    As usual, you are for destroying the earth at any cost.
    Shame on you.

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  4. 4. ErnestPayne 3:32 pm 09/17/2012

    Given romney’s ability to make a fool of himself it is small wonder he avoided this opportunity.

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  5. 5. bucketofsquid 2:52 pm 09/26/2012

    I am amazed that the Republican party that I once was a member of has worked so hard to get themselves the label of the anti-science party. From the Inquisition like statements about “legitimate rape” to the denial of climate change to the cuts to education and research they espouse most publicly, they make it hard not to have contempt for them.

    Democrats aren’t inspiring either but at least they don’t appear to hate technology, education and science.

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