Our View: Get the lead out, Coast Guard
Furor over a proposal by the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct live-fire weapons training exercises at 34 sites on the Great Lakes is justified. Concerns include boater safety as well as the possible effects of dumping more than three tons of lead into...
Furor over a proposal by the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct live-fire weapons training exercises at 34 sites on the Great Lakes is justified. Concerns include boater safety as well as the possible effects of dumping more than three tons of lead into the lakes in the form of spent bullets.
However, there's no denying members of the Coast Guard need to practice, and not just on land.
Training on water allows the gunners and the folks in charge of the boat to experience "the real thing."
How to compromise?
Green bullets would be a good place to start.
These bullets don't contain lead, which we know is toxic and already present in the Great Lakes.
They are made of nylon and tungsten, and supposedly don't break down as readily as traditional bullets.
Cutting the number of training sites would also be helpful, starting with the sites located near high traffic areas. It may make training less convenient, but taxpayers would probably be willing to pay higher travel costs for their Coast Guard members in return for less machine gun fire on the Great Lakes.
Limiting weapons training on the lakes to Nov. 15 through April 15 -- as suggested by the Canadian government -- would minimize the impact on fishing and recreational boating.
Most importantly, however, and before any final decisions are made, there needs to be further environmental assessment.
Yes, the Coast Guard did hire a private company to do an environmental impact study, but the company only looked at five years worth of impact.
That's not good enough.
The company also did not consider existing contamination of the Great Lakes in that study, which Minnesota environmental chemist Deb Swackhamer said was a worry, because lead and other metals pose a cumulative risk.
Water quality is not to be taken lightly.
Like the good Mayor Bergson said, "... it does not seem sensible to stand by and allow thousands of pounds of toxic metals to be put in the Lakes every year."
These lakes provide drinking water, food and a livelihood for many people on both sides of the border.
The Coast Guard and the U.S. government need to do a better job of studying and explaining the possible effects of the proposed trainings on the environment.
Look at the big picture, Coast Guard officials.
Then do the right thing for all of us.