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Cleanup milestones announced for Kalamazoo River and River Raisin

Agency: Environmental Quality


April 6, 2012                                                                                                   12-0406


For More Information                                  Brad Wurfel, 517-373-7917, 

                                                                   John Riley, 517-335-4122,


The Michigan Office of the Great Lakes recently announced major steps in the effort to improve two Michigan rivers on the national Areas of Concern list.

Michigan has 14 Areas of Concern - Great Lakes coastal waterways where historic pollution has significantly degraded the ecosystem. Each site is defined by specific Beneficial Use Impairments, conditions that define the nature of the pollution and guide restoration efforts by federal, state and local partners.

The Kalamazoo River and River Raisin officially have retired their "Degradation of Aesthetics" BUI. The news was confirmed this week in a letter from the Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes National Program Office.

"Hundreds of people around the state continue working diligently to restore impaired beneficial uses," said Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes Director Patty Birkholz. "The removal of these two BUIs represents a milestone in the AOC program's strategy to delist Michigan's 14 Great Lakes Areas of Concern."

Restoration of the aesthetics beneficial use verifies that the Kalamazoo River and the River Raisin AOCs are no longer the eyesores they were in the past. Rather, these areas have been visually transformed to a condition that is comparable with most riverways around the state. Recent assessments found the rivers do not exhibit persistent, aesthetic-related degradation that may interfere with a healthy fishery, recreational activities or other uses.

Portions of the Kalamazoo River and River Raisin were designated as AOCs in the late 1980s, due to severe environmental degradation primarily resulting from industrial activities.

While six other BUIs remain associated with the Kalamazoo River AOC and eight are still connected with the River Raisin AOC, significant progress is being made to address each of them. These efforts are led by local Public Advisory Councils in partnership with the EPA, Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes, and other federal, state and local partners.

Michigan partners will continue working to remove remaining contamination and improve habitat. Future activities planned for these two AOCs include contaminated sediment remediation and several dam removals that will restore a more natural flow regime.

"These improvements will benefit not only the people who work and live near the Kalamazoo River and River Raisin AOCs, but all the residents of Michigan and the Great Lakes basin as well," said Chris Korleski, director of the EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office.

The Kalamazoo River AOC begins at Morrow Dam, just upstream from the City of Kalamazoo, and extends approximately 80 river miles to the mouth at Lake Michigan in Saugatuck. The extent of the River Raisin AOC is the lower 2.6 miles of the river, downstream from the City of Monroe, extending one-half mile into Lake Erie and along the Lake Erie shoreline both north and south, for one mile.

The BUIs that remain for both AOCs include: Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption, Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems, Degradation of Benthos, Restrictions on Dredging Activities, Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, and Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat. The River Raisin's BUIs also include Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae, and Beach Closings.

Under Annex 2 of the 1987 Protocol Amending the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the United States and Canadian governments identified 43 areas on the Great Lakes that had serious water quality problems known to cause beneficial use impairment of the shared aquatic resources. These areas have been formally designated by the two governments as Areas of Concern.

For more information on the DEQ's Areas of Concern program, see: Areas of Concern