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Clinton River remediation reaches first milestone

October 13, 2020

The first of eight remediation criteria has been met from the Clinton River Area of Concern (AOC), a significant accomplishment in long-term community efforts to restore the watershed in southeast Michigan more than 30 years after it was first identified as needing significant environmental work.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved removing the degradation of aesthetics beneficial use impairment (BUI) from the restoration criteria list, lauding Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) staff and the many local, state and federal partners who have been instrumental in achieving this environmental restoration milestone. The Clinton River Public Advisory Council has been actively involved in implementing remedial actions within the AOC for more than three decades. 

“It’s exciting to see the progress our dedicated staff and partners are making in cleaning up the Clinton River watershed and the successful work in reaching this milestone,” EGLE Director Liesl Clark said. “The residents of southeast Michigan are beginning to see the results of so many years of hard work by local, state and federal partners with the end goal of restoring this jewel of southeast Michigan to a resource that everyone can enjoy.”

Clinton River Watershed Council volunteers and some of the trash they collected during one of the group's annual clean up events.Among the successful activities that led to the BUI’s removal was an annual fall river debris collection event. In 2019, 230 volunteers collected 4,660 pounds of trash from the watershed. The Clinton River Watershed Council has information about cleanup efforts on its website. Other efforts include a clean boating campaign to educate watercraft owners about how to minimize oil spills and debris within marinas.

Progress continues on completing work on the seven other BUIs listed for the watershed: restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, degradation of benthos, restrictions on dredging activities, eutrophication of undesirable algae, beach closings, degradation of fish and wildlife populations and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. The watershed was designated an AOC in 1987.

The Clinton River AOC encompasses the entire Clinton River watershed and the spillway and nearshore area of Lake St. Clair. The watershed drains approximately 760 square miles of southeastern Michigan, including Oakland and Macomb counties and portions of Lapeer and St. Clair counties. Legacy industrial and municipal discharges were primarily the initial cause of water quality degradation, but ongoing contamination problems are almost exclusively of nonpoint source origin.

There are 11 AOCs in Michigan, with three having been delisted: Lower Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula in September, and Deer Lake, near Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula, and White Lake, in Muskegon County, in 2014.

The Michigan AOC webpage has information about the program and individual AOCs.

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Photo caption: Clinton River Watershed Council volunteers and some of the trash they collected during one of the group's annual clean up events.