Containing nearly 20% of the earth’s fresh water, the Great Lakes represent the largest freshwater system in the world.
Threats To the Great Lakes
Current Great Lakes Laws
The primary federal law governing water pollution, with the objective of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters by preventing pollution, providing for the improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands. Under the CWA, states have the “primary responsibilities and rights” to achieve the Act’s objectives.
With regards to point sources of water pollution discharges, the EPA determines discharge levels, issues and enforces permits, oversees a state’s program administration, and will take over if it determines that the state is underperforming.
The EPA establishes criteria for water quality, which is presumptively binding on states, each of which may establish designated water uses as long as the use doesn’t interfere with the attainment of downstream water quality.
The rule more precisely defines and predictably determines the scope of “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act. It clearly protects the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources from pollution and degradation.
Also known as the “Final Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lakes System,” the initiative is a comprehensive plan between the EPA and Great Lakes states to restore the health of the Great Lakes. The initiative includes criteria for states to use when setting water quality standards for 29 pollutants, including bioaccumulative chemicals of concern, and prohibits the use of mixing zones for these toxic chemicals.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact is a legally binding interstate compact between Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The compact details how the states will manage the use of the Great Lakes Basin’s water supply and is the means by which each state will implement its commitments under the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement that also includes the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec. The Council of Great Lakes Governors serves as secretariat to the Governors’ Compact Council created by the Compact. Illinois is exempt from certain provisions of the compact pertaining to new or increased withdrawals or diversions from the Great Lakes.
Section 52.5 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act prohibits the production, manufacture, distribution and sale in Illinois of any personal care product containing plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size. When consumers use personal care products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste containing microbeads, the beads are rinsed down the drain and into our sewer systems. Because of their small size and buoyancy, microbeads escape treatment by sewage plants and are discharged into rivers, lakes and oceans. These microbeads then absorb toxic chemicals which can be eaten by fish and wildlife.