Excerpts of article by John Bartlett, published on October 1, 2002 by the Erie Times-News
Neither Jerry Allender nor Pat Lupo [of Lake Erie-Allegheny Earth Force] can remember the details of the first meeting of the Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee, but both can quickly recount improvements the bay has encountered throughout the past 11 years.
In early October, they witnessed a significant event marking those improvements and the advisory committee’s efforts.
State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Hess formally requested that federal Environmental Protection Agency officials have Presque Isle Bay designated as an “area of recovery”, no longer an “area of concern.”
Allender and Lupo are among a handful of people who began service with the Erie Harbor Improvement Council in 1988 and remain active with the Advisory Committee, which succeeded the council in 1991.
Even though there were hotly disputed points of view about the level of pollution in the bay and what could or should be done about it, members of the Harbor Improvement Council agreed there was work to be done, Allender said. The goal of the council – first proclaimed by the Erie County Environmental Coalition – was “a swimmable bay in 20 years.”
The Presque Isle Bay was designated the 43rd area of concern in 1991. It was the only area of concern that was identified based on a local, grassroots petition for designation, Lupo said. With the designation, the Harbor Improvement Council went out of business and the Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee came into being.
Among the first tasks for the council was to determine which of the bay’s beneficial uses was impaired by pollution under the terms of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The two that surfaced were fish tumors and other deformities in fish, and restrictions on dredging.
Since then, the committee has helped oversee studies documenting the health and problems of the bay and it has developed plans for the bay’s clean up and continued monitoring. Earlier this year, the committee decided that they had done all they could to improve the bay.
The committee voted to have DEP formally request that the bay’s status as an area of concern be changed to “recovery stage.”That means the bay is responding to the corrective actions taken. However, it does require on-going monitoring to ensure that improvement continues.
It is a big step. Presque Isle Bay is the first U.S. area of concern to seek the area of recovery designation.”We can celebrate as long as we stay focused on the fact that everything is not A-OK,” Lupo said.
“Everybody involved agrees there has been significant improvement,” Allender said. “The major sources of contamination entering the bay have been addressed and reduced and the result is an improved bay”
JOHN BARTLETT can be reached at (814) 724-6979, 870-1723 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Excerpts reprinted with permission of Times Publishing Company, Erie, PA. Copyright 2002)