Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

March 27, 2007

2005 EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Data Released

Data for 2005 was released on March 22, 2007. From the EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program website:

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is a database containing detailed information on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories that over 23,000 industrial and federal facilities manage through disposal or other releases, and waste management for recycling, energy recovery, or treatment. This inventory was established under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and expanded by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990.

For Reporting Year 2005, 23,461 facilities reported to EPA’s TRI Program. These facilities reported 4.34 billion pounds of on-site and off-site disposal or other releases of the almost 650 toxic chemicals. Over 88 percent of the total was disposed of or otherwise released on-site; almost 12 percent was sent off-site for disposal or other releases.

For more information about the TRI program, see the What is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program fact sheet.

The individual State data files can be found here

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January 26, 2007

The Economy of the Great Lakes Region

The Brookings Institution has released a fascinating report on the Great Lakes region and, although it focuses on economic opportunities and challenges, the report highlights the importance of the region. Furthermore, it highlights the lack of leadership within the political establishment to cement agreements that benefit the region as a whole:

  • Although National leaders understand the policital importance of the swing states of the region, attention is soon lost after the election season, and
  • State leaders need to advocate for federal policies and investments that would benefit the region as a whole.

It concludes by saying: “As 2008 approaches, the moment is ripe for regional leaders to forge a compact with the federal government around a series of policy innovations that will put the region on sure ground in the new economy.”

It’s another wake up call for returning federal dollars to the region, to unify around important issues, to stop making unilateral decisions, and to pass the Great Lakes Compact.

Source: A Federal-State Compact to Renew The Great Lakes Region (pdf) — A Brookings Institution white paper

Hat tip: You Know What Really Grinds my Gears?

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January 15, 2007

Water efficiency is the “blue wave of the future” — says U.S. Water Czar

Filed under: Great Lakes News,Great Lakes Reference — nemo @ 8:33 pm

Who knew there was a U.S. Water Czar?:

Benjamin H. Grumbles serves as the nation’s “water czar” as assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He has been on the circuit promoting WaterSense, the new government-private industry conservation partnership similar to the successful EnergyStar program.

“WaterSense will be the marquis public-private partnership in promoting water efficiency,” Grumbles said. WaterSense’s mission is to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for water-efficient products and services.

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January 14, 2007

U.S. Drought Monitor update for January 2007

As residents of the Great Lakes Basin we forget that the rest of the country isn’t as fortunate to have the water resources as we do. No single definition of drought works for all circumstances, so people rely on drought indices to detect and measure droughts.

The Drought Monitor is a synthesis of multiple indices, outlooks and news accounts, that represents a consensus of federal and academic scientists.


Here’s the 12-week drought Map of the United States. To those who think that drought is only a problem faced on the other side of the world, take a hard look at all the red areas — exceptional drought conditions.

As the population continues to move south and west so will the political power base shift in Washington. The basin will come under increased pressure to relieve the water woes of these areas. The time to enact regional water use agreements is now while the basin’s political representation remains at its current levels. Any delay will only weaken the already weak political situation.

To many, water is looked on as a hardship. We are not impervious to its affects.

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January 10, 2007

5 Things to Know About Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia at a glance:

What is it?

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) is a fish disease that may cause bulging eyes, bloated abdomens, inactive or overactive behavior and hemorrhaging in the eyes, skin, gills, and at the base of the fins. It also attacks the internal organs of fish, leaving them bloody looking. Fish mortality is highest in low water temperatures between 37-54 degrees Fahrenheit.

The virus poses no threat to humans.

What species are affected?

VHS has been found in 37 species, including muskellunge, smallmouth bass, northern pike, freshwater drum (sheephead), gizzard shad, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill, rock bass, white bass, redhorse sucker, bluntnose sucker, round goby and walleye. It has not been confirmed in salmonids in the Great Lakes, but has been known to infect those species.

Where is VHS found?

VHS was observed as early as 2005 in freshwater drum in Lake Ontario and in muskellunge in Lake St. Clair. In 2006, VHS was blamed for fish die-offs in muskellunge in Lake St. Clair, freshwater drum and yellow perch in Lake Erie, and round gobies in Lake Ontario.

As of January 2007, waters known to be infected with the virus include Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Or maybe more — see update here: VHS in the Great Lakes longer than originally thought

How is VHS spread?

Fisheries managers don’t know for sure how VHS has spread. They’re guessing the virus moved to the Great Lakes from the Maritime Provinces via ballast water from ocean-going ships in 2002. Biologists believe the virus can move between fish populations, making them worry all of the Great Lakes could eventually have a VHS presence.

If the virus can spread by infected fish, it could be seen in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan in two to four years.

What can be done to stop VHS?

In the short term, boaters and anglers can disinfect their equipment with a bleach cleaning solution. Managers are urging anglers not to move fish from known infected waters to uninfected waters. They also ask anglers to leave all bait and livewell water in the lake from which it was taken.

Source: Ludington Daily News

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