Lake Michigan Haunted by Sewage, Mercury

Our waterways have become a witch’s brew of pollutants

Environment Illinois

Chicago, IL – Today Environment Illinois released “Ten Scary Facts about Lake Michigan,” a new factsheet which compiles 10 of the most frightening realities about pollution in the area’s most iconic waterway. The group was joined by Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, and many activists.
“For more than a decade, loopholes in the Clean Water Act have Lake Michigan to become a witch’s brew of pollutants,” said Lisa Nikodem, Campaign Director with Environment Illinois. “President Obama has the power to make fishing and swimming in Lake Michigan a lot less scary. Today, we are urging the Obama administration to ensure that Lake Michigan, and all our waterways, are protected now and for future generations.”

The Halloween-themed event comes on the heels of the EPA’s announcement to move forward with a rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands across the country. The rule could close loopholes that leave nearly 56% of Illinois’s streams and the drinking water for more than 1.6 million Illinoisans at risk of unchecked pollution.
The most terrifying facts revealed today include:

•    Since 2000, over 34 billion gallons of raw sewage have been dumped into Lake Michigan.

•    Last year Cook County had 334 beach closings due to unsafe levels of pollution and bacteria.

•    Over 50 beaches on Lake Michigan Tested positive for mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (used in coolant fluid) and E. Coli in summer 2012.

What’s even scarier is what’s at stake: For most people in Illinois, Lake Michigan means swimming, fishing, and boating. More importantly, Lake Michigan provides drinking water for over 10 million people.

“Pollution in the lake, obviously has a detrimental effect on us now,” said Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno of the 1st Ward. “But also, our future regional prosperity is dependent upon preserving this most precious natural resource. Clean water protections must be restored, and restored as soon as possible. There is no other way to ensure of future.”

The EPA is taking public comments now, and will hold a public meeting in mid-December to gather information on the science connecting our smaller streams and wetlands to larger bodies of water. Over 3,500 Illinoisans have already submitted public comments calling on the Obama administration to move forward to close these loopholes.

 “Environment Illinois thanks members of Congress like Congressman Schneider for standing up for clean water,” Nikodem said. “Support in Congress is critical to preventing further efforts to weaken Clean Water Act protections and helping the Obama administration restore protections to waterways that feed Lake Michigan.”

“It’s time to give Lake Michigan the Halloween treat it deserves – protection from polluters,” said Nikodem. “We thank the EPA for taking the first step forward to protect our waters. The Obama administration should finish the job and ensure that Lake Michigan and all our waterways will be less scary for future Halloweens.”