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The Great Lakes Watershed

Overview of Great Lakes Wastewater Management
The Great Lakes Watershed
History of U.S. Wastewater Management
Risks and Problems
Milwaukee, WI
Chicago, IL
Detroit, MI
Citizen Groups
Rehabilitation and Action Plan

            The Great Lakes have been called “the nation’s fourth seacoast.” Indeed, the U.S. Great Lakes shoreline is over 4,500 miles long, “longer than the U.S. East and Gulf coasts combined” (Gulezian). The watershed includes 8 U.S. States: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The area is home to over 40 million people, as well as countless species of plants and animals (Gulezian). It is a vital and irreplaceable ecosystem, both for its human economic benefits and for the wealth of biodiversity it sustains. However, the Great Lakes watershed is facing heavy threats today. Contaminants, pathogens, and invasive species are present throughout. Habitat destruction due to urbanization and urban sprawl threaten the health biodiversity in the region (Gulezian). Pollution caused by sewer overflows and leaks from out-dated sewer systems is another serious problem; also related to urbanization.

            A recent report conducted by the non-profit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) found that only six of the Great Lakes states “are home to 43 percent of the nation’s 828 CSO communities” (EIP). In other words, 356 municipalities within Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are “being inundated with billions of gallons of raw human waste and other untreated sewage that cities and towns should be cleaning up under eight-year-old Clean Water Act rules” (EIP).

great lakes population distribution


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