The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States was established to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.
Established in 1972, revised in 1978, and last amended in 1987, the agreement has met with mixed success. Recognizing the need for updated goals and effective implementation and enforcement, the two countries have been working on a new draft of the agreement for years.
Waterkeeper provided detailed comments on the GLWQA early in the process in 2005.
Our latest comment on the proposed amendments was submitted today, and is posted below.
Great Lakes Environment Office
Great Lakes National Program Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
September 20, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
Re: Amending the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Binational Public Engagement Process
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper [Waterkeeper] is writing to support the proposal to update and strengthen the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement [GLWQA]. Waterkeeper strongly supports the objectives set out in the agreement and the International Joint Commission’s [IJC] efforts to update the agreement as part of a renewed and passionate commitment to clean water in Canada and the United States.
Waterkeeper is a grassroots environmental charity that uses research, education, and legal tools to protect and restore the public’s right to swim, drink, and fish in Lake Ontario. Our goals for Lake Ontario reflect the broader goals of the GLWQA: swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters throughout the Great Lakes.
Waterkeeper stands by our comments of November 2005 [attached] regarding updates to the GLWQA. Particularly:
1. There must be a renewed commitment to meeting the objectives of the GLWQA, ensuring that every community in the Great Lakes watershed can safely swim, drink, and fish in their water.
2. The IJC should be empowered to create a public process whereby any resident of Canada or the United States could bring forward evidence of non-compliance with the agreement. Such a process could be effectively modeled on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s “Citizen Submissions on Enforcement Matters” process.
3. The IJC should assume a leadership role in ensuring that the deadlines set out in the GLWQA are met.
Additionally, Waterkeeper supports increased communication with and involvement of the public, as outlined in the recent public consultations on the amendment process. We support the renewed emphasis on science as the basis for the agreement, and increased monitoring of environmental conditions in the lakes. Waterkeeper supports coordinating notification between Parties of activities that could have cross-border impacts, such as shipping hazardous or radioactive waste through shared waters.
Waterkeeper looks forward to continued opportunities to contribute to the ongoing development of an improved GLWQA, including the opportunity to review and provide comments on a draft version of the amended agreement.
If you have any questions or concerns about these comments, please do not hesitate to contact Counsel for Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Joanna Bull, at 416-861-1237 or Joanna@waterkeeper.ca.
President and Waterkeeper