The Great Lakes Legacy Act: Cleaning Up Historic Contamination

The Great Lakes Legacy Act: Cleaning Up Historic Contamination

By Elizabeth Hinchey Malloy, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office

Contaminated sediment at the bottom of our rivers and lakes is a significant problem in the Great Lakes Basin. For decades, industrial, agricultural and household sources contributed harmful pollutants to the Great Lakes, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides, oil and grease, and heavy metals including mercury and cadmium. The enactment and enforcement of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s has led to improvements in controlling these discharges and greatly reduced the amount of contaminants being released into the environment, yet contamination remains in the sediment as a legacy of historical pollution. These contaminants continue to enter the food chain where they can cause adverse effects to human health.

To help address this, the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) was enacted by Congress in 2002. The GLLA authorizes $270 million in funding over five years to assist with the remediation of contaminated sediment in the 31 designated Areas of Concern (AOCs) on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. The goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office, which is administering GLLA, is to identify eligible remediation projects within the 31 U.S. Areas of Concern, and conduct remediation projects for these sites (Table 1).

Progress to date: GLLA remediation projects have been completed at Black Lagoon in Trenton, MI, and at Hog Island Inlet in Superior, WI. Remediation is ongoing at Ruddiman Creek in Muskegon, MI. A new remediation project was recently approved in Ashtabula, OH, and work is expected to begin in summer 2006.

Black Lagoon
Black Lagoon is located within the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River, in the Detroit River AOC. This project was a partnership between EPA, Michigan DEQ, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the city of Trenton. Black Lagoon sediment was contaminated with PCBs, oil and grease, and heavy metals. The goals for the project were to reduce risks to human health, wildlife, and aquatic organisms, and restore the aquatic habitat and the fishery within Black Lagoon. The site is currently slated for construction of a marina that will serve recreational boaters, provide increased access to the Detroit River, and hopefully encourage overall economic growth for the area.

Timetable: Project complete (December 2005).
ProjectWebsite: www.epa.gov/glla/blklagoon/

Hog Island Inlet and Newton Creek
Hog Island Inlet and Newton Creek are located in Superior,WI, in the St. Louis River AOC. This project was a partnership between EPA and Wisconsin DNR, working closely with the city and county of Superior and the St. Louis River Citizens Advisory Group. Fifty thousand tons of petroleum-contaminated sediment and soil were removed from Newton Creek and parts of Hog Island Inlet. Further planting and re-seeding will occur in spring of 2006. The next step for this site is for all parties to continue to work together to develop and implement a restoration plan.

Timetable: Project complete (December 2005).
ProjectWebsite: www.epa.gov/glla/hogisland/

Ruddiman Creek and Ruddiman Pond
Ruddiman Creek and Ruddiman Pond, in Muskegon, MI, are part of the Muskegon Lake AOC and are contaminated with PCBs, PAHs and metals. This project is a partnership between EPA, Michigan DEQ, the city of Muskegon, the Public Advisory Group and local community organizations. The cleanup will remove approximately 80,000 cubic yards of sediment and is expected to cost $12 million. Remediation of the creek includes stream diversions and temporary wall construction to remove sediment under dry conditions, and redirection of wastewater treatment outflows. After sediment remediation, the creek and pond will be reconstructed and the pre-cleanup flow patterns will be restored with more flood protection features, followed by extensive replanting of native plants, shrubs and trees.

Timetable: Project complete (May 2006)
ProjectWebsite: www.epa.gov/glla/ruddiman/

Ashtabula River
EPA is partnering with the Ashtabula City Port Authority and the state of Ohio in a GLLA cleanup project on the lower reaches of the Ashtabula River.Work is about to begin on the river cleanup that is expected to take three to four years. The Ashtabula City Port Authority will finance 50 percent of the project in cooperation with other public and private entities, including the Ashtabula River Cooperation Group II, a group of private companies. The state of Ohio has provided $7 million for the project and other organizations, including the Ashtabula River Partnership and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will play an active role in this project.

Timetable: Landfill construction is underway, dredging is expected to begin in September 2006.
ProjectWebsite:www.epa.gov/glla/ashtabula/

Table 1.

Components of the Great Lakes Legacy Act Remediation Projects
(up to $50 million authorized annually) Priority is given to:

 

  • • Remedial action for contaminated sediment
  • • Projects identified in a Remedial Action Plan
  • • Projects that will use an innovative approach that may provide greater environmental benefits, or equivalent environmental benefits at a reduced cost
  • • Projects that can begin within a year of funding

 

Research and Development
(up to $3 million authorized annually)

  • • Conduct research on the development and use of innovative approaches, technologies and techniques for the remediation of contaminated sediment at U.S. AOCs
  • • No non-federal match required

Public Information
(up to $1 million authorized annually)

  • • Provide funding for public outreach and public information at U.S. AOCs regarding sediment remediation
  • • No non-federal match required.

For more information on the Great Lakes Legacy Act, please contact:
Marc Tuchman, U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office
PH: (312) 353-1369 • E-mail: tuchman.marc@epa.gov

 

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