Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller has signed a formal request asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lift restrictions on dredging in Waukegan Harbor following cleanup of historic industrial contamination of the harbor located on Lake Michigan.
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Pat Quinn, and the hard work of state, local and federal partners, we are ready to take another step toward ‘delisting’ the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern,” Miller said. “The health of Waukegan Harbor is a key to a healthy economy here in Waukegan, Lake County and all of northeast Illinois.”
Dredging restrictions have been in place in Waukegan Harbor since the 1980s due to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination of the harbor that resulted from manufacturing activities at Outboard Marine Corporation. Initial sediment cleanup in the harbor in 1992-93 removed 90 percent of PCBs, and additional sediment removal in 2012-13 achieved targeted PCB cleanup levels.
Waukegan Harbor is one of more than 40 Areas of Concern (AOC), sites along the Great Lakes in the U.S. and Canada damaged by industrial pollution and other contamination that were targeted for cleanup in the mid-1980s.
The cleanup of the Waukegan Harbor AOC is managed jointly by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group (CAG).
Each AOC has designated ecological problems – or Beneficial Use Impairments (BUI) – that must be addressed to achieve recovery and be eligible for delisting by the International Joint Commission (IJC). PCB cleanup allows for the request to delist the dredging BUI for Waukegan Harbor.
While Illinois is seeking delisting of the dredging restrictions for Waukegan Harbor, IDNR will continue to conduct fish sampling to measure the benefits of harbor cleanup that can allow lifting a BUI restricting fish and wildlife consumption.
IDNR is also assisting with the sampling and review for removing BUIs for degradation of benthos (micro-organisms living in harbor sediments) and degradation of plankton (micro-organisms in the water). Previously, IDNR developed a habitat management plan for the AOC to allow removal of a BUI on loss of wildlife habitat, and funded measures improving beach health that allowed lifting a BUI restricting beach access in Waukegan. The USEPA will consider removing Waukegan Harbor from the list of Great Lakes AOCs when all of the BUIs have been addressed and officially removed.
“All the members of the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group send their heartfelt thanks to each of the local, regional, state and federal agencies who have worked tirelessly with us over the past quarter of a century to see this crucial restriction on dredging removed,” said Jean B. “Susie” Schreiber, chair of the Waukegan CAG.
Press Release, June 25, 2014