Michigan Restoration Project Removes Pollutants Harmful to Human Health

Project Summary Federal Great Lakes restoration funds helped support the removal of more than 500,000 pounds of harmful pollutants from the St. Marys River that helped make the river safer for fish and, ultimately, the people who eat those fish.

Project name: St. Marys River Area of Concern cleanup.

Location: The St. Marys River, the connecting channel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

Approximate cost: The combined cost of the two projects was $12 million.

Resource challenge addressed: Historic pollution discharges

Contaminated materials being removed from Tannery Bay. (Photo by White Lake Dock and Dredge, Inc.)

Contaminated materials being removed from Tannery Bay. (Photo by White Lake Dock and Dredge, Inc.)

from a tannery and a manufactured gas plant on the U.S. side of the St. Marys River contaminated a large area of the river bottom with mercury, chromium and toxic chemicals that were toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Mercury and other pollutants in the sediment accumulated in fish, posing health threats to humans and wildlife that consumed the tainted fish.
Key partners (public and private): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state of Michigan, Phelps Dodge Corp., Consumers Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Sault Ste. Marie and the St. Marys River Binational Public Advisory Council.

Types of jobs created: Biologists, ecologists, chemists, landscape engineers, environmental engineers, dredge operators and truck drivers.

Results and accomplishments: In 2007, dredging in an area of the St. Marys River known as Tannery Bay removed 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment that contained 500,000 pounds of chromium and 25 pounds of mercury. The contaminated sediment that was removed would have covered an area the size of a football field to a height of 24 feet. In 2010, crews dredged another 26,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment in an area of the river near the MCM Marine Facility. That area was contaminated in the early 1900s by a manufactured gas plant.

Web site: www.epa.gov/glla

Originally Published: July 26, 2011

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