USA: “White Lake is One Step Closer to Environmental Recovery”, Says Official
State officials announced Muskegon County’s White Lake is one step closer to environmental recovery.
Designated as a federal Great Lakes Area of Concern in the late 1980s due to severe environmental damage primarily from industrial activities, the White Lake AOC is one of 14 coastal sites around Michigan benefitting from focused environmental restoration work as a result of the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The site includes the wetland complex at the mouth of the White River, just west of US 31, and extends to the channel opening at Lake Michigan.
Areas of Concern are defined by various “Beneficial Use Impairments,” specific environmental damages that must be restored to achieve recovery. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently confirmed removal of White Lake’s Degradation of Benthos Impairment. It is a major environmental milestone because it signals the recovery of the aquatic insect community, which is the foundation of the lake’s food web.
“The recovery of benthic populations signifies concrete environmental results from extensive contaminated sediment removal over the last decade,” said Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes Director Patty Birkholz. “A diversity of insects at the lake bottom demonstrates a significant reduction in pollution and provides the basis for a healthy fish community.”
Removal of the Degradation of Benthos impairment verifies that the White Lake AOC no longer exhibits symptoms of toxic sediment accumulation. The makeup of the insect community has changed from fewer species of pollution-tolerant organisms to a larger number of species that are more sensitive to toxics. Over time, this should be reflected in the makeup of the lake’s fish community.
“This improvement will benefit not only the people who live and work in the White Lake AOC, but all the residents of Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin as well,” wrote Chris Korleski, Director of EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office, in a letter approving the BUI removal.
This is the third BUI to be removed from the White Lake AOC since September 2011. While five other BUIs remain associated with the White Lake AOC, significant progress is being made to address each of them. The effort is led by the White Lake Public Advisory Council in partnership with the EPA, the DEQ, the Muskegon Conservation District, and other federal, state, and local partners.
The BUIs that remain connected with the AOC include: Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption, Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat, Degradation of Aesthetics, and Restrictions on Drinking Water Consumption.
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.
Dredging Today Staff, June 26, 2012; Image: epa