Division of Water Supply and Pollution Control
        Washington,  D,C.  2020]
Murray Stein
Chief Enforcement  Branch
Presented at the United Action  for  Clear Water Conference of
the United Automobile Workers,  November 6,  1965,  Detroit

                  For both the United  States and Canada, one of the most lucky


             consequences of the  ice age was the formation of the Great Lakes.

 .            As  the  giant glaciers "began to recede and the temperatures rose,

             about 18,000 years ago, the first  small  finger  lakes appeared

             where the  southern edges  of the Great Lakes are nox^.  As the

             glaciers shrank further northward, the Lakes grew to their present

             size.   They are the  largest area of fresh water in the world, and

             they  have  undoubtedly been the single most important factor in the

             development of the region around them.  Were it not for the Great

             Lakes,  this region would  probably  have developed as a primarily

             agricultural economy.  Instead the Great Lakes region, for both

             the United States and Canada, supports an  industrialized, multi-

 ^          faceted economy.  In both countries the Great Lakes regions have
 >v \

 ;^           made  an invaluable contribution  to the national economies, and

             both  retain a tremendous  growth potential.


\C                Civilizations are conditioned by natural resources, but not

             completely predetermined  by them.  Not all countries are as rich

             as their natural resources could make them.  In some cases men

             have  exploited what  the earth has given them; in others they

             have  let the earth lie fallow.  In the early history of the

             Great Lakes region the Indians did not change their mode of

             existence by harnessing the talents of the Lakes.  The Indians

             fished the Lakes, used them for drinking water and transporta-

             tion, and  left the Lakes  much  as they had found them.  The



potential of the Great Lakes lay waiting, and their beauty remained


     The Europeans in their expansions westward seized the Great

Lakes region as quickly as they could.  In l6l5 Samuel de Champlain

first ventured onto Lake Huron; 55 years later France owned the

entire St. Lawrence River-Great Lakes region.  Wo sooner had she

staked out her claim than she had to defend it against others

equally conscious of its economic value.  French gunboats were

cruising the Lakes from 1678 on.  After a hundred years of skirm-

ishes between French, British, and Indians for control of the

Lakes and their lands, the British gained ownership in 1863.  Such

was the value of the region that after the United States gained

control of the area by the treaty of 1783, Great Britain attempted

again, in the War of l8l2, to retake it.

     Until the War of 1812 the Great Lakes had been a promise;

afterwards they paid off.  The introduction of steamboats and the

American version of the "industrial revolution" transformed the

Lakes into highways of commerce and industry.  Reduced shipping

costs and the availablity of clear, cheap water stimulated pro-

duction of every kind.  When the Erie Canal was finished there

was a water route from the Atlantic to the center of America,

and its consequences were felt throughout the entire nation.  The


                             - 3  -

Great Lakes created the copper mines of the Keweenaw Peninsula of

Lake Superior.  The Lakes built  the great open-pit iron mines in

the Mesabi, Marquette, Gogebic,  vermilion, Menominee, and Cuyuna

ranges.  They created the markets for the grain of the mid-west

and the timber of the old northwest; they transported millions of

tons of coal and stone; they supplied seemingly endless quantities

of process and cooling water for a diversified manufacturing economy.

     By the 1920s, annual shipping on the Great Lakes, even though

open for only 7-1/2 to 8 months  of the year, exceeded the combined

total tonnages of the Panama and Suez Canals for the entire year.

Also by the 1920s, Great Lakes commerce exceeded tha annual foreign

trade of the entire United States from any of its ocean ports.  The

Detroit River is possibly the most heavily used of the Great Lakes

connecting channels since it joins the western Lakes, sources of raw

materials, with Lake Erie, the site of heavy industry and manufactur-

ing.  In 1962, 150 different types of cargo, totalling 100,039,108

tons, travelled up and down the  Detroit River.

     The use of Great Lakes water for industrial processes has reached

equally huge proportions.  From  Lake Erie alone, industries today

take ^.7 billion gallons of water daily, including 3-85 billion used

for power production.  The municipalities along Lake Erie take 6l9

million gallons a day.  Multiply these figures by water usage on the


other four Irxes and t_>e magnitude of our dependence on tnis

fresh vater takes en its true proportions.

     Massive exploitation of water resources has created an economy

of extraordinary productivity.  The two largest cities of Canada,

Toronto and Montreal, are in the Lakes' basin.  Two of the five

largest cities in the U. S. are on the Great Lakes.  The five

states of the Western Great Lakes area (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,

Ohio, and Wisconsin) account for 29/'a of the national index of value-

added-"by-manufacture in 1962.  There is prospect for continued ex-

pansion of industry and prosperity in the Great Lakes region.  Pro-

duction in the Detroit area, measured in terms of value-added-by-

manufacture, could well increase from about $5.8 billion in 1960

to approximately $13 billion in 1980.  Population likewise may climb

to 5.5 million in the Detroit area by 1980.

     The Great Lakes have been generous and can continue to be

generous.  Until now, their generosity has been met with extreme

ingratitude.  ¥e have not treated the Lakes with even the minimum

respect that we might have been expected to show objects of such

beauty.  In using them as receptacles for the wastes that our

civilization produces, we have damaged them severely.  The game

fish that thrived in Lake Erie are declining.  The translucent


                             - 5 -

blue water is "being steadily transformed into something thicker

and muddier, occasionally, in Lake Erie, resembling pea soup.  The

shores are sometimes lined with debris, often decaying organic


     We have damaged ourselves in this process.  The invaluable

recreational potential of Lake Erie has been stymied, and both

commercial and sports fishing depressed.  The water supplies  of

several large cities have been vexed with intermittent unpleasant

tastes and odors.  There is every reason to believe that the same

problems will appear in the other Lakes in short order if waste

discharges continue at their present rate.

     We are approaching a turning point, however.  The five Lakes

which have been the foundation of an entire regional economy are

reaching the end of their resistance to wanton abuse.  The con-

tinued growth that we can expect will place tremendous demands

on the water supply.  5-5 million people will obviously need

much more water than the 3-9 million people that were here in

I960.  Less obvious, perhaps, is the volume of increased in-

dustrial water needs.  In 1960 industry used k-6% of the water

of the United States, compared to Q% used by the public at

large.  Furthermore, much of the industry along the Great Lakes

was located there because it required especially great quantities

of water in the first place.  Increase in industrial water needs

in the Great Lakes area will probably be greater than the national


                             . 6 .

average.  The chemical industry, for example, used approximately

677 "billion gallons of water in the Great Lakes region in 1959J

economists estimate that it may require 1950 "billion gallons a

year by 1980, practically tripling its requirements.  The pulp

and paper industry in the Great Lakes region used 293 "billion

gallons in 1959, and may need 507 billion gallons a year by 1980.

     The continued growth of this region is going to depend

principally on our ability to supply these staggering volumes of

water for industrial and municipal use.  Are we going to have the

water available and will it be of usable quality?

     A quick glance at the condition of Lake Erie today, and at the

disturbing trends in some other  areas of the Great Lakes, suggests

that failure is imminent.  Pollution is encroaching on Lakes Michigan

and Ontario.  Lake Erie is polluted practically in its entirety.  It

was the first of the Lakes to go, largely because it is the shallowest;

there is less water in it to pollute, and the eutrophication, or aging,

process naturally occurs most rapidly in a shallow lake.  The quanti-

ties of wastes poured into the Lake are so immense that we have accel-

erated this natural aging process.

     Organic wastes, both from industry and from plain sewage, greatly

increase the quantities of phosphorus and nitrogen and their compounds

in the Lake.  These substances are nutrients for many microscopic

forms of plant and animal life, notably alga and phytoplankton.  These


                             - 7 -

organisms in turn destroy the usefulness of the water for many

other purposes--swimming, boating, water supply, fish propagation.

Inorganic wastes, largely sediment (although we do not as yet have

enough knowledge of the long-term effects of toxic materials dis-

charged to the Lakes), are also destructive.  Sediment increases the

turbidity, or suspended matter in the water; this makes the water

opaque, cutting down the quantity of light that penetrates below

the surface.  The sediment also settles to the bottom, forming

sludge banks of significant depth, which smother plant and animal


     The traditional form of pollution is a steady deterioration

in the quality of the water—in its oxygen content, its bacterial

levels, its color, its acid-alkali balance, its toxic content.  In

a river, once we determine to prevent such pollution and provide

adequate treatment for our wastes, the natural flow of the stream

will normally carry out the old pollutional material and renew

the water.  In estuary and ocean waters, tidal flow is usually

strong enough to scour out sludge deposits and polluted backwaters.

In a Lake, basically a stagnant body of water, waste materials

remain once they are put in.  When combined with the natural tendency

of stagnant waters towards eutrophication, or aging, pollution is

deadly:  it threatens to destroy the body of water forever.  The end

of the aging process, towards which Lake Erie is moving, is the


                               8 -

transformation of the entire Lake into a marsh, and eventually

into dry land, as the basin fills up with organic material.  This

process is irreversible.  It is final.  In this geologic era we will

have no second Lake Erie.

     Since we cannot have another Lake Erie we have no choice but

to save this one.  Two important steps have been taken in this di-

rection.  At the request of Governor Swalnson of Michigan, the U. S.

Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1962 initiated an

intensive study of the Michigan waters of Lake Erie and the Detroit

River.  After the study was completed, an enforcement conference

was held under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and the

Michigan and Federal conferees unanimously adopted a program of

action to save the Lake.  If the Lake were to be cleaned up, the

other States would have to do their part as well, of course, and

Governor Rhodes of Ohio called for another conference to create

a program that would be binding on all five Lake Erie states.

This second pollution control conference was held in August of

this year-, and the conferees, six of them this time, again adopted

an action- program.

     The remedial action required to save Lake Erie varies, of

course, according to the specific pollution source and the volume

and type of waste it discharges.  In general, the Federal scientists

and investigators believe we will need:

1.  Secondary treatment plus adequate disinfection for all municipal



2.  The operation of secondary treatment plants in such a manner as

    to maximize the reduction of phosphorus in the effluent.

3.  Industrial waste treatment equivalent to that given municipal


4.  Combined storm and sanitary sewers must be prohibited in all new

    sewer construction,, and methods must "be found and implemented

    for correcting stormwater overflow where it now exists.

     Speed may now "be the most important factor.  Every day of delay

makes more remote the possibility of restoring Lake Erie to its earlier

usefulness.  Every day of delay means further damage to the other

Great Lakes.  The Federal Government has the power to force corrective

action where the pollution damage is interstate.  But the Federal

water pollution control program is designed, as it should be, as a

cooperative State-local-Federal program.  If we are required to take

legal action to get towns and industries to put in the necessary

treatment facilities, the procedure becomes costly and time-consuming.

In that kind of case we are all the losers.

     Cooperative action is the only hope for a rapid solution to

the problem.  In my many years with the water pollution control

program I have found that our greatest ally in the struggle for

clean water is the expressed opinion of the people.  I do not think

we can fairly expect industries to be eager to build expensive waste

treatment facilities which they do not consider to be productive


                              - 10 -

capital investments.  Wor do  I thirds we can expect city officials to

rush to commit city funds or  raise taxes to build municipal waste

treatment works unless they are sure of strong popular support.  If

the United Auto Workers merely saw to it that its membership was

converted to the cause of clean water, much would "be accomplished

already.  1,200,000 people cannot "be ignored.  If the UAW can use

its immense prestige and influence to win other converts to the cause

of clean water, still more would toe accomplished.

     When I was a young man in the 1930s, my imagination was captured

by the UAW organizing campaigns and the audacity of its sit-down strikes.

Our country has changed since those days, and so have your problems

and the nature of your struggles.  The issues which lay behind the old-

fashioned "bread-and-butter"  fights are now broader and more complex.

The water pollution issue has the peculiarity of being both a national,

nonpartisan, long-range concern and a "bread-and-butter" issue of the

greatest immediacy to union members.

     Clean water in the Great Lakes would provide one of the best

fringe benefits yet designed—ample free recreational opportunities

close to home.  Many of us cannot afford to fly to Florida or Cali-

fornia twice a year for swimming, water-skiing, boating, or simple

relaxation for our families.  A vacation-land on Lake Erie could be

worth quite a pay raise.


                             - 11 -

     Throughout the world, water is a key rav material for basic

industry.  In this region there is an especially high proportion

of water-using industries.  As the Great Lakes go, so goes industry

in this region.  All the iron anu. coal in the ground and all the

demand that this great economy can muster will not produce steel

without water.  The possible decline of industry is the most "basic,

"bread-and-butter" issue for any union.

     If our industries are going to be kept moving and growing, we

are going to have to evolve more intelligent water policies and

practices. Such action will be a matter of survival for a sophis-

ticated economy such as ours.  This nation is not accustomed to long-

range planning in the handling of its resources.  But without the

clean fresh water supplied by the Great Lakes our economy, your

jobs, and even the positions of the United States and Canada as

world powers may be adversely affected.

     We may not be a nation of great experience in planning and manag-

ing our resources, but neither are we suicidal or stingy.  It is just

a matter of awakening our spirit.  On projects that have caught the

popular imagination, no amount is too much for us to spend, for we

are a wealthy country.  I have seen brave men, excited by space

travel and anxious to spend billions of dollars on it, struck timid

by the millions of dollars that clean water costs.  Bravery in these

matters can be restored by increased public concern with the task of


                              - 12  -
preserving our waters.

     We won the first battle  of Lake  Erie  in 1813.  We are now facing

a second battle of Lake Erie.  The battleground is  far larger than

the Lake, and the stakes are  even greater  than they were in 1813.   We

won the first battle quickly.  The second  one may be  harder and will

take longer.  The wholehearted support  of  the UAW in  this Second

Battle of Lake Erie could help us win it much more  quickly.  I know

that support will be forthcoming.
r1"-- " : Tf'vV?1 Protectioa Agency
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