Cleaner waterways grow economies: report

A cruise ship on the Detroit River. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle.)

A visiting scholar at the University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research is crediting a cleaner Detroit River for boosting the local economy.

Dr. John Hartig contributed to a Great Lakes revival study done by the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR).

He said the Detroit River was once among the 10 most polluted waterways in the Great Lakes but now boasts a magnificent waterfront and restored fish and wildlife habitats.

“They are the pride of their communities, drawing residents and tourists alike,” Hartig said.

The Great Lakes Revival report was released on Tuesday and features case studies on the revitalization of the Detroit River and others.

“Great Lakes Revival is the story of how clean-up of the most polluted areas of the Great Lakes leads to reconnecting people to these waterways that leads to community and economic revitalization,” said Hartig.

The case studies show how communities reclaimed waterways thanks to a Canada-US partnership, known as the Great Lakes Areas of Concern that began almost 35 years ago.

Hartig said these waterways were once polluted with industrial and agricultural toxic residues, but are now economic drivers for their local communities.

“Without science-based clean up of these pollution hot spots, community and economic revitalization would not have been possible,” Hartig said.

The IAGLR said the 10 areas of concern make the case for continued support to finish their remediation.

“This study provides compelling rationale to sustain Great Lakes funding as part of a community revitalization strategy,” he added. “They remind us of our place in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem and how our well-being and health is inextricably linked to the health of its waters.”