NEMWI Submits Comments on the Great Lakes Draft Binational Strategy for PCB Risk Management

NEMWI policy analyst Ankita Mandelia has submitted to U.S. and Canadian environmental agencies comments on the Great Lakes Draft Binational Strategy for PCB Risk Management. The Binational Strategy—a product of the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement—outlines current efforts to prevent and mitigate polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pollution in the Great Lakes, identifies gaps in PCB management, and proposes options for addressing those gaps.

PCBs were designed to be extremely resistant to degradation, causing them to be a persistent and ubiquitous pollutant in all environmental media. Bans on the manufacture and most trade in the U.S. and Canada of PCBs in the late 1970s caused a significant decline in PCB pollution. However, the decline in PCB pollution has recently plateaued and efforts to further reduce it must be executed on a finer scale. The Binational Strategy for PCB Risk Management will be a useful tool in refocusing regulatory management actions to ensure that PCB concentrations in the Great Lakes Basin decline to levels that, among other things, make it safer to consume fish from within the basin.

NEMWI commends the U.S. and Canadian governments for creating the Binational Strategy and believes it is a major step towards managing PCB contamination in the Great Lakes system. A successful PCB management strategy in the Great Lakes region can serve as an example for those managing PCB pollution in water systems across both the U.S. and Canada. Having reviewed the Binational Strategy, NEMWI has made several recommendations, including:

  • Less focus on blanket goals for sediment concentrations of PCB that do not take into account unique environmental characteristics of various lake and river systems.
  • More focus on decreasing PCB concentrations in fish to levels safe for consumption, especially considering subsistence fishing communities.
  • The creation of a binational data clearinghouse for PCBs, as well as for all Chemicals of Mutual Concern identified under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
  • More stringent regulation of safe disposal of PCBs and PCB-containing equipment.

NEMWI’s complete comments can be found here. For more information, contact Ankita Mandelia, Policy Analyst for NEMWI’s Toward Sustainable Water Information Program.