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Great Lakes Executive Committee meeting highlights progress under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

On June 26 and 27, the Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC) met in Chicago to discuss progress being made to implement the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). The GLEC meets twice each year to report on progress and obtain input from stakeholders on implementation. At this meeting, co-leads in charge of GLWQA annexes reviewed projects implemented under the agreement to clean up areas of concern (AOCs) in the Lower Menominee River in Michigan and Wisconsin and in Hamilton Harbour in Ontario, efforts to monitor and evaluate the condition of coastal and nearshore areas where urban development and other human activities intersect with Great Lakes water resources, and plans being developed by Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York to reduce nutrient discharges to Lake Erie. The current GLEC co-chairs (Michael Goffin of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Tinka Hyde of US EPA) solicited input on several issues, such as whether the US and Canada should partially delist an AOC when one country has completed a cleanup but the other has not and how the lake ecosystem objectives that the GLWQA requires fit into the GLWQA implementation scheme.

The new co-leads of Annex 3 (Chemicals of Mutual Concern) – John Marsden of ECCC and Mardi Klevs of US EPA – provided an update of the binational management strategies that the governments are preparing for the first round of chemicals of mutual concern. (Draft strategies for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) were released for public review and comment on June 20 are posted at Comments on the draft strategies are due July 17.) The co-leads described the current process for nominating chemicals for CMC designation, noting that sulfates and radionuclides so far have been nominated for consideration in the second round. The Parties will decide upon second round CMC nominations by the end of 2017.

The Annex 3 co-leads plan to seek input from GLEC members and stakeholders on the processes that were used to nominate and review chemicals for designation as first round CMCs. At the GLEC meeting, the co-leads sought input on three specific questions:

  • What is a CMC?
  • What will we achieve by designating chemicals as CMCs?
  • What is the difference between CMCs and emerging chemicals of concern?

Based on the brief discussion of these issues at the meeting, it appears that there may be differences within GLEC members regarding the criteria that the Parties so far have used to identify and evaluated chemicals for CMC designation. CGLI plans to discuss these questions with members of the Chemical Management Work Group and will submit written comments and suggestions to the Annex 3 co-leads within the next month of two.

On a related chemicals management note, John Jackson, a long-time advocate for enhanced management of chemicals in the Great Lakes region, announced during the meeting that several advocacy organizations have joined together to create an organization called “Toxic Free Great Lakes” that will collaborate on Annex 3 issues and will encourage greater attention to chemicals issues in the Great Lakes region on the basis of the precautionary principle. The organization will be co-chaired by Mr. Jackson and Mike Murray of the National Wildlife Federation.