Great Lakes

December 18, 2013

Scientists Turn Their Gaze Toward Tiny Threats to Great Lakes

Source: The New York Times, December 15, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The newest environmental threat to the Great Lakes is very, very small.

Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. There, fish and other aquatic life eat them along with the pollutants they carry — which scientists fear could be working their way back up the food chain to humans.

Scientists have worried about plastic debris in the oceans for decades, but focused on enormous accumulations of floating junk. More recently, the question of smaller bits has gained attention, because plastics degrade so slowly and become coated with poisons in the water like the cancer-causing chemicals known as PCBs.

”Unfortunately, they look like fish food,” said Marcus Eriksen, executive director of the 5 Gyres organization, speaking of the beads found in the oceans and, now, the lakes. His group works to eliminate plastic pollution.

Studies published in recent months have drawn attention to the Great Lakes, where there may be even greater concentrations of plastic particles than are found in oceans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also been looking at the impact of microplastics on marine life.…

April 17, 2013

Oil proposals for Great Lakes concern environmentalists: Great Lakes oil proposals worry some

Source: USAToday.com, April 14, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Two oil projects in the works could significantly increase the amount of heavy crude oil moving on — and near — the Great Lakes, causing alarm among environmentalists because they involve the same heavy oil that was behind a $1-billion oil spill on the Kalamazoo River in 2010 that remains an ecological disaster.

The company fined for that spill — Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge — is behind one of the new projects. Its new venture would nearly double the amount of crude oil shipped on a major pipeline from Canada to Lake Superior — transporting more oil than the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that has caused an environmental outcry and fierce debate in Congress. The second project involves a refinery on Lake Superior’s shore building a dock to load oil barges, allowing the shipment of up to 13 million barrels of crude oil per year throughout the Great Lakes to Midwest refineries and markets beyond.

Together, the projects would mean a new reality for the Great Lakes basin, heightening risks to the world’s most vital freshwater source, according to environmental groups.

“It’s pretty alarming,” said Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. “We’ve known for a while that the Midwest has been the major consumer for these tar sands. Now, we’re becoming the transportation hub for it.”

Added Nancy Shiffler, a Sierra Club volunteer based in Ann Arbor, “Oil tankers on Lake Superior; what could possibly go wrong? That clearly sounds like a bad idea.”…