A report by the Canadian non-profit organization, Sierra Legal Defence Fund, analyzes 20 cities in the Great Lakes basin and grades them based on how well they manage their sewage. "The Great Lakes basin is one of the most important freshwater ecosystems on the planet-holding one fifth of the world’s fresh water," said report author Elaine MacDonald, Ph.D. "Yet, the 20 cities we evaluated are dumping the equivalent of more than 100 Olympic swimming pools full of raw sewage directly into the Great Lakes every single day."

The Great Lakes Sewage Report Card (available online at www.sierralegal.org ) grades cities on issues such as collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage based on information provided by each municipality. Cities that fared poorly-such as Detroit; Cleveland; and Windsor, Ontario-typically have serious problems related to combined stormwater and sanitary sewers, the organization said. Green Bay, Wisc.; the Peel Region of Canada; and Duluth, Minn., which all received good grades, have more sophisticated treatment processes and permit very little sewage to escape into the environment through combined sewer overflows, spills, or bypasses.

"Although it would be easy to point the finger at municipalities, the Great Lakes basin is a political quagmire that includes two countries, eight states, a province, dozens of tribes and First Nations, and hundreds of local municipal and regional governments," MacDonald said. "The only way out of this mess is to have all levels of government make a renewed commitment to upgrade our aging sewage systems and conserve our precious freshwater resources."