Online Staff Report
WAUKEGAN, Illinois — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the completion of all cleanup work required to remove Waukegan Harbor from the binational list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern. EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman was joined for the announcement at Waukegan Harbor by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D); U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Mark Kirk, R-Illinois; U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.; and Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley.
Waukegan Harbor was one of 43 contaminated sites on the Great Lakes designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern by the United States and Canada under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
“Today is a great day for Waukegan Harbor and for Lake Michigan,” Hedman said. “Federal, state and local agencies have now completed all of the work required to remove Waukegan Harbor from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.”
Since the early 1990s, EPA, the State of Illinois, and parties responsible for contaminating the Area of Concern have spent approximately $150 million to remove or cap PCB-contaminated sediment, to clean up the Outboard Marine Superfund Site, and to restore habitat in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern. Funding for this work was provided through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the EPA Superfund program, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The City of Waukegan also worked with federal and state agencies to eliminate combined sewer overflows, to improve beaches, and to create valuable dune and swale habitat.
“Illinois families, wildlife and businesses benefit when Waukegan Harbor is safe and open for business,” Quinn said. “Working tirelessly with federal and local partners, we have been able to turn a once heavily contaminated site into a safer destination for humans and wildlife alike. Cleaning up PCB waste and protecting the Great Lakes is the right thing to do for Illinois and our nation.”
Durbin added: “For the first time in several decades, the Harbor is no longer a toxic hazard or one of the most polluted areas on the Great Lakes. It’s an asset to the community, one that could contribute to economic development sorely needed in the area. The primarily federally-funded cleanup of PCB contamination has made Waukegan Harbor safer for community members and wildlife. This would not have been possible without the longstanding partnerships between federal, state and local governments, and the dedication of the community members who have worked for nearly 30 years to get the Harbor a clean bill of health. Lake Michigan is a treasured resource, and we need to continue to work hard to restore and preserve it so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Kirk said: “Today is a proud day for me — the completion of the environmental cleanup of Waukegan Harbor marks a momentous milestone in my 14 years of work alongside of federal, state and local stakeholders to clean up the Harbor and unlock its full potential as a vibrant lakefront community.”
Schneider said: “Waukegan Harbor is a critical component of our local economy, and I’m proud that after 20 years of tremendous efforts by the EPA and our community, the harbor is finally free of the heavy contaminants that constrained commercial shipping and hindered our local tourism. The restoration of Waukegan Harbor is helping revitalize our lakefront, restoring jobs and making Waukegan a hub for commercial activity on Lake Michigan.”
Motley said: “We here in Waukegan have waited a very long time for this announcement. This is another positive sign of the direction Waukegan is headed, and is also a very clear signal to the region and to the rest of the world that Waukegan is open for business. I thank everyone that was involved in making this project a success, and I sincerely appreciate the fact that this priority project has finally been brought to a conclusion.”
Cameron Davis, original co-chairman of the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group and now senior adviser to the U.S. EPA administrator, said: “Local support — the long-term commitment of community stakeholders — has always been the muscle behind the fight to get the job done.”
More about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Waukegan Harbor cleanup is available at http://www.glri.us; http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/aoc/waukegan/; and http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/outboardmarine/.
Posted Aug. 5, 2014