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Four Chemical Groups Recommended for Designation as First Round “Chemicals of Mutual Concern”

Annex 3 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement—the principal agreement between the US and Canada regarding Great Lakes water quality—requires the US and Canada to protect and restore water quality through “cooperative and coordinated measures to reduce the anthropogenic release of chemicals of mutual concern into the Waters of the Great Lakes.” One objective of the annex is to identify Chemicals of Mutual Concern (CMCs) that will be subjected to management actions within the Great Lakes basin. Management actions may include such things as “measures to achieve virtual elimination and zero discharge of CMCs” and life-cycle management of products containing CMCs.

As part of this process, CGLI and members of its Chemical Management Work Group participated on multi-stakeholder “identification Task Teams” charged with reviewing nominated chemicals to determine if they should be designated “chemicals of mutual concern,” or CMCs. The ITTs prepared and reviewed draft “Binational Summary Reports” to determine whether nominated chemicals should be designated CMCs. The reports summarize data and information about the levels of the nominated chemicals in the Great Lakes and existing chemical management programs that address the chemicals. In addition to CGLI, the ITTs included government agency personnel and representatives of environmental NGOs.

After reviewing Binational Summary Reports for each nominated chemical, the ITTs recommended four chemicals for designation as CMCs. The four chemicals are:

  • mercury
  • polychlorinated biphenyls
  • certain perfluorocarbons, and
  • PBDE flame retardants

The ITTS indicated that “no determination” as to CMC status is possible as to the remaining nominated chemicals (HCBD flame retardants, NP/NPE, chlorinated paraffins, and BPA) due to lack of information The recommendations are being considered by the Annex 3 subcommittee and once final will be presented to the Great Lakes Executive Committee for listing decision.

After final decisions have been made regarding CMC designations, Strategic Task Teams (STTs) will be convened to consider what additional management action is necessary to address levels of CMCs in the Great Lakes. The process for convening STTs has not been established and likely will not occur until sometime in the summer, but membership is expected to include government representatives and members of NGO groups and industry.

The US and Canadian governments plan to nominate additional chemicals for evaluation as potential CMCs in future years. The original plan was to nominate a new set of chemicals annually, but the cycle may be longer than one year due to the significant amount of effort required to prepare and review the Binational Summary Reports and make recommendations for CMC nominations.

The latest version of the Binational Summary Reports have been posted on CGLI’s website and will be open for public comment from April 27 to May 20. Final recommendations to regarding CMC designations are expected in summer 2015.