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Significant progress is being made around the state as cleanup work continues at Areas of Concern

Map showing location of Michigan's Areas of ConcernToday's MI Environment story is from the 2020 State of the Great Lakes report.

There are 11 remaining Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC)in Michigan in various states of remediation. Mitigation work on Beneficial Use Impairments (BUI)and monitoring continue on these long-term projects to restore natural habitat fouled by legacy contamination. Three former AOCs have been delisted and are considered successfully remediated.

1.  Torch Lake

Two BUIs remain, degradation of benthos and restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption. Work continues to clean up contaminated sediment and waste drums in two areas of the lake. Experiments to determine the effectiveness of benthic restoration were started in the summer of 2020 and will continue into 2021.

  1. Manistique River

Remedial work is complete and two BUIs( restrictions on fish consumption and restrictions on dredging activities) remain. Ongoing monitoring will help to determine when the final two BUIs can be removed.

  1. St. Marys River

Remedial work is complete on the Michigan side of the AOC, while additional contaminant removal continues on the Canadian side. The last three BUIs (restrictions on fish consumption, fish tumors or other deformities and degradation of benthos) will be removed in coordination with Canadian efforts.

  1. Muskegon Lake

Four of the listed nine BUIs have been removed from the AOC. In 2020, work took place to remove unnatural lake fill and invasive species and create shoreline wetland habitat and hydrologically reconnect restored wetlands to Muskegon Lake and River at four project sites. Additionally, a project at the mouth of Ryerson Creek began in the summer of 2020 and will remove mercury-contaminated sediments and enhance wetland habitat.

  1. Saginaw River/Bay 

The federal Superfund program is working to remediate contaminants in the riverbed, banks and floodplains of the Tittabawassee River. Monitoring of related issues around Saginaw Bay (including bacterial contamination along beaches, colonial nesting bird/bald eagle productivity, and fish tissue contamination) by federal, state, and educational institutions is ongoing. Three of 12 BUIs have been removed: restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems, tainting of fish and wildlife flavor and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

  1. St. Clair River

Of 10 original BUIs, only two remain (restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption and restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems). Significant work on shoreline rehabilitation, reefs, wetlands and tributaries has restored fish and wildlife habitat, resulting in the loss of fish and wildlife habitat BUI being removed in 2017. Habitat restoration included the construction of fish spawning reefs which can benefit lake sturgeon, various shoreline stabilization and habitat projects, wetland creation and a project to enhance fish passage in a tributary. All these efforts benefit a variety of fish and wildlife -- from game and non-game fish, to amphibians and reptiles, to pollinators and birds. All projects to restore the AOC on the U.S. side have been completed and monitoring is continuing to assess when the final BUIs can be removed.

  1. Clinton River

The removal of the degradation of aesthetics BUI is the first of eight to be removed for this site. All habitat restoration projects have been completed and are in the post monitoring phase to assess improvements to fish and wildlife habitats and populations. Separate monitoring efforts are also ongoing to assess bacterial contamination at Lake St. Clair Metropark and contaminated sediments within the lower Clinton River.

  1. Kalamazoo River

The federal Superfund program is working toward removing PCB contaminants from the riverbed, banks and floodplains, as well as the removal of the Trowbridge and Otsego City dams. Plans are being implemented to remove two other dams -- Plainwell No. 2 and Allegan City -- and provide extensive habitat restoration over the next several years. The Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council plans to fund approximately $25 million in restoration projects in the watershed during the coming decade, as a result of a legal settlement. Beach closings is the only one of eight BUIs that has been removed.

  1. Detroit River

Of 11 BUIs, two have been removed: tainting of fish and wildlife flavor and restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems. Extensive habitat restoration has been accomplished recently including the installation of fish spawning reefs, shoal restorations around islands in the river to protect and create wetlands and slow water areas and several projects have been completed on Belle Isle restoring habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species. Current priorities include characterizing the chemical contaminants in the river sediment and working toward remediation of these areas.

  1. Rouge River

There are 11 habitat restoration projects either in the design or implementation phase. In addition, there is an effort to design a habitat enhancement project for the Rouge Flood Control Channel to improve fish migration from the Detroit River into the Rouge River watershed. Contaminated sediment assessment work also continues to address the remaining BUIs, primarily within the lower main stem of the Rouge River. None of the nine BUIs for this site have been removed.

11. River Raisin

All planned projects for the AOC were complete in 2016 when the remaining PCB contaminated sediment was removed and a cap installed. Research and monitoring are continuing on the bald eagles, herring gulls and fish of the area to assess the remaining four BUIs, which are restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems, degradation of benthos, and restrictions on dredging activities.

Removed from the list:

  1. Lower Menominee River, 2020
  2. Deer Lake, 2014 
  3. White Lake, 2014

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