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EPA Great Lakes conference to be held at UT

Toledo’s active participation in the health of the Great Lakes is one of the reasons the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 Great Lakes Area of Concern Conference will be held this week at The University of Toledo.

The conference will take place Wednesday and Thursday, March 11 and 12, in the Student Union.

“Here at the University, we are engaged in a lot of water projects and work with a lot of community partners, including the Maumee area of concern,” said Dr. Patrick Lawrence, professor and chair of the UT Department of Geography and Planning. “It seemed to be a nice fit for their audience and the type of conference that they’re looking to host.”

In 1987, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States was amended and signed in downtown Toledo. It identified 43 areas of concern on the Great Lakes.

Areas of concern are typically at major cities with historical issues of water and sediment contaminants from industries, wastewater treatment plants and other sources, and they range in size and scope. The Maumee area of concern covers the lower Maumee River, the Ottawa River, Swan Creek and several other rivers within northwest Ohio.

Since President Barack Obama started the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, it has brought in more than $1.9 billion in the last five years to address beneficial use impairments, or BUIs, in Great Lakes areas of concern. A BUI means that there has been a change in the chemical, physical or biological integrity of a water body; an area of concern must have at least one BUI, but typically has several.

One of the topics of the conference will be on funding and how to budget for different projects in order to address the wide range of BUIs still found at many of the areas of concern.

“People really want to know what the federal government is doing to help them achieve their goals,” said John Perrecone, environmental specialist with the EPA. “All of us that work on these projects feel very good about them because we know that the money being spent is going toward good outcomes, and I think this conference will showcase that.”

Funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative partially helped fund the recent Ottawa River restoration project on campus that wrapped up in 2014. One of the focuses of this year’s conference will be discussing some of the successes of habitat restoration projects like this that are being funded and implemented by federal and state agencies.

One of the most important aspects of this conference is bringing together people who work on these projects to share ideas and successes from across the Great Lakes basin. There also will be a special video presentation on Toledo’s water crisis last summer to share how the city handled it and what was learned.

“The problems that we had here in Toledo last August with the drinking water are something that is of great interest in other areas of the Great Lakes,” Lawrence said. “We will highlight interviews of local citizens and groups focusing on how the University and the Toledo area responded to that event and what we learned from it and share with other Great Lakes communities.”

Media Coverage
The Blade (March 9, 2015)
WTOL 11, 13 ABC and NBC 24 (March 12, 2015)
The Blade (March 13, 2015)


is UT's Director of University Communications. Contact her at 419.530.2410 or
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