Can't We Just Flush the Great Lakes Clean?

If only it were that easy. We've got the world's greatest amount of fresh water surrounding us, and, according to a recent report, we insist on treating them like giant porcelain bowls waiting for the number ones and number twos of society.

Environmental rights group Environmental Defence has just just revealed that alarming levels of cancer-causing mercury, PCBs, pesticides, dioxins and furans have rendered some of our Great Lake fish inedible. The report, aptly named Up to the Gills: Pollution in Great Lakes Fish, examined the advisories for four species of fish in 13 locations across Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

Photo by blogTO Flickrite viviloob.

Lake Ontario's report card was one of the least desirable. The study found that eight categories of fish have an increased occurrence of contamination since 2005, while only one has improved. Near Toronto, fish like Rainbow Trout and Carp were tested, and the results found that these fish should no longer be consumed. The eatability scale involves rating the fish according to meals/month that can be safely consumed.

The entire report is available for viewing from the Environmental Defence website, and it's worth the read. It details the methodology of the study, summarizes the findings, teaches about the different toxic chemicals found in our lakes, and offers recommendations. Measures like education, prevention and enhancing response to threats are necessary in order to make our lake fish safe to eat again.

"To reduce threats to human and ecological health, we must insist on aggressive measures to prevent the movement of toxic chemicals into fish and equally aggressive measures to revitalize the Great Lakes basin ecosystem," says Dr. Gail Krantzberg, director of the Dofasco Centre for Engineering and Public Policy, and a professor at McMaster University. She specializes in Great Lakes protection and remediation.

So, next time you go to buy that fresh Lake Ontario trout, try to remember if you scooped your dog's poop, or used pesticides on your lawn, and then think again.

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