By Susie Schreiber, Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group
With a vibration of the walls and floors of the Waukegan Yacht Club, concerned citizens, statesmen, scientists, government officials and numerous partners gathered on September 6, 2012, to celebrate the start of the final environmental dredge required to delist the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern, located just north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. The vibrations were caused by the demolition of the public recreational docks so that the hydraulic dredge heads could get the PCBcontaminated sediment completely out of that portion of the harbor.
Declared an Area of Concern in the Great Lakes in 1981, Waukegan Harbor’s remediation has been mentored and supported by the dedication of the Waukegan Harbor Citizens’ Advisory Group (CAG), formed in August 1990. This group has doggedly and steadfastly worked for 23 years towards the goal of a PCB-free harbor, and restoration of the natural aquatic and coastal habitats within this Area of Concern. Success is clearly in sight!
Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the USEPA on Great Lakes issues, spoke on behalf of all the Waukegan Harbor CAG partners who never once abandoned their efforts to proceed through the multiple phases of the clean up process. Congressman Robert Dold (R- IIl.10th) and representatives from both Sen. Mark Kirk and Sen. Richard Durbin’s staff spoke enthusiastically of their support of delisting Waukegan Harbor as an Area of Concern on the Great Lakes. The target date for delisting is 2014.
Coveted small “Platinum Buckets” bearing the logo of the Waukegan Harbor CAG, and sporting a sticker on the bottom indicating “No PCBs”, were given to all in attendance. The buckets are representative of a “bucket brigade” of dedicated citizens and agency staff who passed, filled, kicked, and yes, even spilled, the many buckets of issues faced over the years to arrive at this exciting moment of starting the final environmental dredge.
Among the many supporters who helped to lay the groundwork for today’s success is Freshwater Future, a partner of the Waukegan Harbor CAG, who provided incredibly important funding and advice for floristic, avian, amphibian and reptile monitoring over the past twelve years. This has enabled the CAG to establish clear scientific baselines for the ever increasing Waukegan dunal habitat. In 1985 the shoreline began to transform into an incredibly rich dunal habitat serving as an important migratory stopover for the endangered Piping Plover. An active nest was recorded here in 2009. We look forward to the many, and continued, improvements to our community and natural areas that the dredging and other activities will provide.