USA: DEP Recommends EPA Delist Presque Isle Bay from Areas of Concern
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced that it officially requested this week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remove Presque Isle Bay from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
If EPA approves the request, Presque Isle Bay will be the second American Area of Concern (AOC) taken off the list of environmentally impaired sites identified under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
“After more than 20 years of investigations, monitoring and restoration actions, the bay is healthy and ready to be removed from the list,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “This action is the result of collaboration among federal, state and local government agencies, universities, researchers and citizens. It is a success story for the City of Erie and its economy, and it demonstrates how government and the public can work together to accomplish environmental protection and restoration.”
The first indication of problems in the bay was in 1984, when local anglers reported brown bullhead catfish with external growths. In 1991, due in part to these concerns and at the request of local citizens, Presque Isle Bay became the 43rd AOC under the Great Lakes Quality Agreement. Two impairments, restrictions on dredging activities due to contaminated sediment and fish tumors or other deformities, were identified.
Upgrades to the City of Erie’s wastewater treatment, collection and conveyance system; reduction in combined sewer overflows within the bay’s watershed; and regulation of pollutant discharges all contributed to the reduction in contaminants entering the bay. These actions translated into the bay becoming the first American AOC to be designated in the Recovery Stage in 2002, with the restrictions on dredging impairment having been removed in 2007.
DEP’s request this week to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the removal of the fish tumor impairment, which also results in the delisting of the bay as an AOC. The recommendation to delist is grounded on the best science and technology available today.
In making its recommendation to delist, DEP consulted with the Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee and determined that the goal of the AOC program, to improve environmental conditions so they are equal to other non-AOC locations elsewhere in the Great Lakes, has been met. Remedial measures with the greatest direct benefit to the bay are complete; other watershed measures that positively impact the bay are ongoing; air, waste and water discharges are permitted and monitored; no other species of fish or organisms living at the bottom of the bay appear to be impacted; and a human health and ecosystem health assessment concluded that the existing conditions in the bay do not increase cancer or non-cancer risks to people or the environment.
“While we celebrate this achievement, our work is not done,” DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch said. “DEP will continue working with the public advisory committee and other partners to monitor the bay’s health, conduct investigations and continue to address environmental issues through our broad range of statutory, regulatory, permitting and enforcement authorities.”
EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office will review DEP’s recommendation to de-list and coordinate a final decision with the U.S. Department of State.
Press Release, December 20, 2012