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Wanna Go to the Beach?

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 19, 2007 1:30PM

You may not realize it, but the Great Lakes Watershed is not only the source of all of our fresh drinking water, but it's also a political entity, protected by a group of US States and Canadian Provinces. Under the Water Resources Development Act, diversion of water from the Great Lakes basin requires the approval of all eight Great Lakes governors, something that rarely occurs.

2007_7_beach.JPGThis act, and it's ramifications, has been a point of contention at times, putting the brakes on attempts to divert water to nearby municipalities for local use, as well as inhibiting industrial uses of the water, such as bottling and manufacturing. In fact, the Great Lakes are one of the great environmental comeback stories of the 20th Century, with the return of life to such horribly polluted lakes as Erie (once known as a Dead Lake).

Unfortunately, the agreements that protect the freshwater of the Great Lakes is predicated on the governors of the eight states and 2 provinces. And in the case of Indiana's governor, Mitch Daniels, it seems that expanding the refining capacity of BP, and the revenue it will draw for the state is more important than protecting the freshwater source that many of us depend on. According to the Chicago Tribune, Indiana regulators have exempted BP from state environmental regulations so that the Whiting refinery can move forward with a $3.8 billion expansion, allowing the refining of Canadian crude oil, and paving the way for 80 more jobs. Under this new permit BP, already one of the largest polluters in the Great Lakes, will be allowed to dump 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day, increasing the risk for algae blooms and (more) beach closings.

In response to this move (like many states, Indiana is authorized to administer the federal Clean Water Act) legislators from both sides of the aisle are pushing federal regulators to block the expansion of the refinery. "We need to embarrass the BP leadership to do the right thing," U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Tuesday on WGN radio's "The Spike O'Dell Show." "In my book, BP, which tries to market itself as an environmentally friendly company, now stands for 'Bad Pollution.'"

We think this story is so utterly fucked up, it stands on it's own, so we're reserving comment until both Congress and federal regulators have their final say. The City of Chicago and the Park District are planning to pass petitions at beaches this weekendWe hope you'll have your say on this matter, too.

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