Deer Lake Delisted as ‘Areas of Concern’

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman yesterday joined Ishpeming Mayor Mike Tall, state officials and local residents at Deer Lake in Ishpeming, Michigan, to mark the removal of this toxic hotspot from a binational list of “Areas of Concern” targeted for cleanup in the 1987 U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

After decades during which only one U.S. Area of Concern was delisted, federal agencies have accelerated cleanup actions during the past five years by using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Deer Lake is one of three Areas of Concern that have been delisted since the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010.

The United States and Canada designated 43 Areas of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in an effort to target sites contaminated primarily by industrial activity that occurred before modern environmental laws were enacted.

The Deer Lake Area of Concern on the southern shore of Lake Superior was contaminated by mercury that leached into water flowing through an abandoned iron mine and by other sources of pollution.

High levels of mercury contamination in fish and reproductive problems in bald eagles were documented in the Area of Concern. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants ($8 million) were used to complete the final work required for delisting: projects that diverted water from the underground mine to the surface and to restore a trout steam known as Partridge Creek.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative accelerated cleanup work needed to protect Lake Superior and to delist the Deer Lake Area of Concern,” Hedman said. “Our work in the Deer Lake Area of Concern has reduced threats to public health and will enhance recreational opportunities and the UP economy.”

The Partridge Creek Project stands out as an excellent example of the terrific results that may be achieved when business, citizens, and government work together to accomplish important environmental goals,” said Mayor Tall. “The local community and the global community are the beneficiaries of this great project. The City of Ishpeming is grateful to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the EPA, DEQ, and the many individuals who all labored for many years to remove the beneficial use impairments at Deer Lake.”

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