Health and welfare of Great Lakes to get an update with signing of new Canada-U.S. agreement

Environment Minister Peter Kent is in Washington, DC today, meeting with Lisa P. Jackson, his U.S. counterpart from the Environmental Protection Agency to sign a new, updated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Originally signed in 1972, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a joint effort between Canada and the United States to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Previously revised in 1978 and 1987, the agreement deals with each country's responsibilities in maintaining the health of the lakes, and discusses specific issues such as pollution, water quality and biodiversity.

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The agreement also identifies certain 'Areas of Concern' that have one or more, as they phrase it, 'beneficial use impairments' — changes in the biological, chemical or physical conditions of the lake that cause, for example: restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, drinking water restrictions, drinking water taste and odor problems, beach closings, degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton, or loss of fish and wildlife habitat. There are currently 42 Areas of Concern identified by the agreement, most of which coincide with lakeshore communities on both sides of the border.

Details aren't being made public until after the agreement is signed this afternoon, but it is expected to include new commitments regarding invasive species, climate change, habitat protection and biodiversity in the Great Lakes. According to his post on the EPA's It's Our Environment Blog, Cameron Davis, one of the U.S. negotiators of the updated agreement, says that it will also place more emphasis on preventative measures and allow for more public input.

According to Environment Canada's Great Lakes webpage, at 2pm EDT today, you can watch a live video of the signing of the Agreement.

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