EPA, Illinois and Local Officials Announce Major Dredging Project at Waukegan Harbor

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–September 6, 2012.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Illinois and Waukegan officials joined forces today to kick off a Superfund dredging project needed to remove the Waukegan Harbor “Area of Concern” (AOC) from a list of toxic hot spots identified in the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

“Today, Waukegan Harbor is going from what was once called ‘the world’s worst PCB mess’ to one of our best coastal turnaround stories,” said Cameron Davis, senior advisor to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and founding co-chair of the Waukegan Citizens’ Advisory Group in the early 1990s. “Last year, federal agencies announced they were prioritizing the Waukegan Harbor cleanup and this year we are making good on that commitment.”

Enacted by Congress in 1980, Superfund is a federal law that was designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. EPA’s $48 million Superfund dredging project is an important step toward the cleanup of the Waukegan Harbor, one of four cleanup projects associated with the Outboard Marine Corp. (OMC) Superfund site.

EPA will remove approximately 175,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the harbor. Dredging will begin later this month and is expected to be finished by next summer, a total of about 120 days.

Waukegan Harbor, the only AOC in Illinois, is one of 30 remaining AOCs in the U.S. In 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson targeted Waukegan as one of nine priority AOCs under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Administrator committed to finishing the cleanup of Waukegan Harbor by 2014. Since the United States and Canada identified the list of AOCs in 1987, only one on the U.S. side has been delisted.

“Illinois EPA is pleased to partner with U.S. EPA and the City of Waukegan in moving forward on this project that is a key step toward reaching the goal of Waukegan Harbor no longer being Illinois’ only designated Area of Concern on Lake Michigan,” said Interim Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim.

“Waukegan Harbor has come a long way since contaminated sediment was first discovered here in 1975,” said Senator Dick Durbin. “Upon this project’s completion, Waukegan’s fish will be healthier and its water cleaner, ramping up the community’s attractiveness as a place to live. The Great Lakes are one our nation’s greatest natural treasures and I am proud to have supported this effort to clean up Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Thanks to the State of Illinois and the Environmental Protection Agency for their efforts to ensure the waters around the harbor can support fish and wildlife for years to come.”

“Today we mark the beginning of the end of a cleanup decades in the making,” said Senator Mark Kirk. “Cleaning up Waukegan Harbor has been one of my top priorities since before I came to Congress in 2001, and we could not be here without the leadership of Cameron Davis and the members of the Waukegan Citizens Advisory Group. As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I am fully committed to seeing this effort through its completion to ensure that Waukegan can transform the harbor into a powerful economic engine in northern Illinois.”

“As Lake County’s gateway to Lake Michigan, a clean Waukegan Harbor is critical for our region’s commerce, environmental quality and recreation.” said U.S. Representative Robert J. Dold. “The cleanup will save jobs, increase local property values, and leave a cleaner environment for future generations. I am proud to have been part of making this happen.”

“When all is said and done the future of this community is greatly enhanced by the cleanup of the harbor and surrounding industrial facilities,” said Waukegan Mayor Robert Sobanjian, Jr. “Once the process is completed, potential investors will be able to see past the old misperceptions of this community as a distressed blue collar community and see the great potential that the City of Waukegan has always held.”

EPA placed the OMC site on its National Priorities List of Superfund sites in 1983 and has previously conducted cleanup work at this site. The OMC outboard-boat-motor manufacturing plant polluted Waukegan Harbor with PCBs. For more information on the OMC Superfund cleanup, visit http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/outboardmarine/index.htm.  

In February 2009, President Obama proposed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. Since then, EPA has provided approximately $2 million in GRLI funding for habitat restoration projects and fish monitoring at the Waukegan Harbor AOC. For more information on the GLRI, visit www.glri.us.

Source: epa.gov