Cleaning up the lakes

Toledo Blade

OF ALL America's bounties, none is of greater importance than its abundance of fresh water. When Congress reconvenes next week, one of its first orders of business should be passing legislation to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

 Securing the health of the lakes should not be a partisan issue. As global populations increase, fresh water will become an increasingly valuable resource. The Great Lakes contain some 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water. That's a six followed by 15 zeroes, about 20 percent of all the surface fresh water in the world.

Including Canadians, about 40 million people get their drinking water from the Great Lakes. Tens of millions of people depend on the lakes for their livelihood. Uncounted millions of people hunt fish, swim, and sail on or near the lakes. By itself, fishing in the lakes is a $7 billion industry.

 Those numbers are going to grow, and with them will grow the importance of keeping the lakes healthy.

 Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that the Great Lakes are under attack. Voracious Asian carp - just the latest invasive species to threaten the lakes - are believed by some to be on the verge of entering Lake Michigan. Industrial and agricultural runoff, wastewater infused with discarded pharmaceuticals, and sewer overflows pollute all five lakes.

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Cleaning up the lakes »