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Progress reported on rehabbing Great Lakes, but threat remains

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A decades-old effort to nurse the battered Great Lakes to health has made progress toward reducing toxic pollution and slamming the door on invasive species, but the freshwater seas continue to face serious threats, a U.S.-Canadian agency said on Tuesday.

The International Joint Commission, which advises both nations on issues affecting shared waterways, said their governments had compiled a mixed record in restoring the Great Lakes, which for much of the 20th century were fouled by industrial and household sewage and overrun with exotic fish and mussels.

Levels of some toxins have dropped, although the rate of decline has slowed, and new chemicals have turned up, the commission said. Algae blooms were reduced dramatically, only to stage a frustrating comeback in recent years.

The commission has provided regular progress reports since the United States and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972, when the system containing one-fifth of the world's fresh water was notoriously dirty and Lake Erie was widely described as biologically dead.

The latest report card focuses on the period since 1987, when the pact was updated with an emphasis on reducing toxins and cleaning up 43 highly contaminated areas. The two nations signed another version last year.

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