EPA RAP Liaison
Amy P. Mucha, PhD
EPA Superfund Contact
Jena Sleboda Braun
State RAP Contact
Manistique River Public Advisory Council
Manistique River Area of Concern
August 2012 — A collaboration of local, state and federal entities are working together to complete the last remaining restoration actions needed to delist the Manistique River AOC. These actions will address the contamination causing fish consumption advisories and restrictions on dredging activities.
The members of this collaborative effort include the City of Manistique, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, EPA, U.S. Army Corps Engineers, and U.S. Geologic Survey. This group brings together their technical and scientific capabilities and expertise to develop a comprehensive management approach for restoration of the Manistique River AOC.
The Manistique River flows southwest through Schoolcraft County in Michigan's central Upper Peninsula, discharging into Lake Michigan at Manistique. The Area of Concern is the last 1.7 miles of the river, from the dam to the mouth of the harbor at Lake Michigan. The physical characteristics of this portion of the river have been significantly altered over the last century, with construction of artificial islands in the river for boat docks during the lumbering era in the late 1800s, building of harbor breakwaters in 1913, and completion of the dam and flume in the 1920s.
Historical uses of Manistique River waters in the AOC include receiving wastes from sawmills, a paper mill, small industries, the municipal waste water treatment plant, plus navigation for shipping, ferrying, recreational boating and commercial fishing. Current uses include receiving the wastewater discharges from Manistique Papers, Inc. and the City of Manistique Wastewater Treatment Plant. Recreational uses are mainly boating, sightseeing, and fishing.
- Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption
- Restriction on Dredging Activities
The Remedial Action Planning (RAP) process originally identified five of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement's 14 beneficial uses as being impaired within the AOC. Impaired beneficial uses in the AOC include Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption, Degradation of Benthos, Restrictions on Dredging Activities, Beach Closings, and Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat.
The area was listed as an AOC due to the identification of contamination by poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oils, and heavy metals in the 1970s. Additionally, large quantities of un-decomposed sawdust remain in harbor and river sediments from the white pine lumbering era over one hundred years ago, as well as the relatively sterile sandy sediment that eroded from river banks as a result of log drives on the river.
Remedial actions in the area over the past 10 years, including the removal of sediments contaminated with PCBs and other industrial waste, have allowed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to remove the Manistique River's Degradation of Benthos and Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat impairments. Benthos refers to small organisms that typically live along the bottom of the river. Support for the action was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Manistique River Public Advisory Council.
The Manistique River Public Advisory Council is the local organization that works with MDEQ, EPA and the International Joint Commission throughout the process to determine whether or not a beneficial use is restored and if it should be delisted from the AOC.
On February 15, 2006, the Manistique River Public Advisory Council voted to adopt the delisting targets included in the Guidance for Delisting Michigan's Great Lakes Areas of Concern (PDF) (61 pp, 508K) . Additionally, a local habitat committee was formed to develop a local delisting target for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat beneficial use impairment.
The significant progress that has been made in improving water quality in the AOC over the last twenty years has resulted from increased treatment of waste water discharged into the river. Additionally, to date, over 111,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments have been removed for treatment and disposal. However, some beneficial uses in the AOC continue to be impaired due to historical pollution concerns. In 1996, EPA proposed that it had developed innovative dredging and treatment technologies that could result in an environmentally sound dredging project that could remove PCB contamination from the AOC. The dredging of contaminated sediments took place in succeeding years and was completed at the end of 2000.
Currently, MDEQ, EPA, and the Manistique River Public Advisory Council are working together to evaluate the status of the remaining beneficial use impairments towards delisting and are preparing biennial Remedial Action Plan updates.
Significant RAP Milestones
- 2008: The Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat beneficial use impairment was delisted.
- 2008: Monitoring was conducted to evaluate the status of the Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption and Restrictions on Dredging beneficial use impairments.
- 2007: Monitoring was conducted to evaluate the status of the Beach Closings beneficial use impairment.
- 2006: The Degradation of Benthos beneficial use impairment was delisted.
- 2006: The Manistique River Public Advisory Council adopted the delisting targets included in the Guidance for Delisting Michigan's Great Lakes Areas of Concern (PDF) (61 pp, 508K) .
- 2004 & 2005: Monitoring sampling was conducted.
- 2002: RAP Update for Manistique River and Harbor (PDF) (72 pp, 3.14MB) completed.
- 2001: Confirmation sediment sampling was conducted.
- 2001: Sediment sampling and demobilization of treatment systems and temporary containment systems.
- 2000: Dredging of contaminated sediments began.
- 1996: Manistique River RAP Update (PDF) (45 pp, 1.48MB) completed.
- 1995: U.S. EPA began annual dredging with a demonstration of new dredging technology.
- 1993: The Manistique River Public Advisory Council was officially established.
- 1987: Original Remedial Action Plan for Manistique River AOC (PDF) (116 pp, 3.63MB) completed.
Recent progress and achievements
- 2008: The Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat beneficial use impairment was delisted in September 2006 since the site met the two delisting criteria for this beneficial use impairment that: "1) The Degradation of Benthos beneficial use impairment has been removed according to the Guidance, and 2) The reach of the Manistique River within the AOC supports a diverse fish community."
- 2008: A fish contaminant investigation was undertaken in the fall, including sampling of wild fish in the river and at a Lake Michigan control site and caged fish upstream and downstream of the AOC was undertaken by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to evaluate the status of the Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption beneficial use impairment.
- 2008: A sediment quality investigation was undertaken jointly by the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to evaluate the status of the Restrictions on Dredging beneficial use impairment and to assist the City of Manistique in evaluating dredging and disposal options for the navigation channel.
- 2007: Water quality monitoring was undertaken by the City of Manistique during the summer swimming season to determine the status of the Beach Closings beneficial use impairment.
- 2006: The Manistique River Public Advisory Council adopted the delisting targets included in the Guidance for Delisting Michigan’s Great Lakes Areas of Concern (PDF) (61 pp, 508K) . This allowed the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to begin evaluating the status of the beneficial use impairments towards delisting.
- 2006: A Habitat Committee was formed including members from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. EPA, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Manistique Papers, City of Manistique, and the Schoolcraft County Sports Fisherman Association. The task of this group is to develop a local delisting target for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat beneficial use impairment.
- 2006: The Degradation of Benthos beneficial use impairment was delisted in December 2006 since the site met the statewide restoration criteria for the Degradation of Benthos Beneficial Use Impairment: "All remedial actions for known contaminated sediment sites with degraded benthos are completed and monitored according to the approved plan for the site."
- 2005: Final Manistique Harbor and River Site, Manistique, Michigan, Data Evaluation Report was released in May. The purpose of this document is to present a summary of the analytical data collected to document the post-dredging conditions in the Manistique Harbor and River Area of Concern and act as a baseline assessment for long term monitoring at the site. The field data collection activities occurred during August and September 2004.
- 2005: The Final Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA), Revision 1 for the Manistique Harbor and River in Manistique, Michigan was released in March. The ERA focuses on those media that ecological receptors can be exposed to sediment and whole body fish.
- 2005: The Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA), Revision 2, was released in May. The HHRA focuses on the risk due to exposure to the media and from eating fish caught in the River and Harbor.
- 2005: The ERA and the HHRA were prepared to evaluate the post-dredging conditions. Surface water is not evaluated in the ERA or HHRA because PCBs were not detected in this medium.
- 2004: In August and September of 2004, sampling activities focused on the collection of physical, chemical, and biological samples. The contaminant of potential concern at this site is PCBs. The environmental media sampled for PCB analysis included sediment, surface water, resident fish, caged fish, and semi-permeable membrane devices (SPMDs).
- 2002: Samples were collected by the Response Early Action Contract personnel in 2002. Based on the results of the 2001 comprehensive sampling event, five areas of concern were identified. The purpose of the 2002 sampling event was to evaluate the extent of horizontal and vertical contamination in each of these five areas.
- 2001: In 2001, confirmation sampling was completed to verify that the 10-ppm average PCB concentration goal for the harbor and river was met.
- 2000: Approximately 141,000 cubic yards of PCB contaminated sediments have been removed from the river and harbor from 1994 through 2000.
- 2000: The dredging of contaminated sediments was completed at the end of 2000. Final dredging was done by divers with hydraulic hoses to minimize resuspension of PCBs and to ensure a clean substrate when completed.
- 2000: This Superfund action was conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Emergency Response Branch. Final work is underway, based on sampling at the end of the 2000 dredging season.
- The Manistique River was sampled as part of the tributary monitoring portion of the Lake Michigan Mass Balance Study. Results are available for the organic pollutants and metals that were part of the mass balance sampling effort.
- Manistique Wastewater Treatment Plant has made improvements to its system toward elimination of combined sewer overflows. This work is essentially complete, with only one combined sewer overflow yet to close, which is rarely active.
- The Manistique River Public Advisory Council has completed or supported a number of local activities noted in the 1996 Remedial Action Plan. These include improved access to the river and improvements to the boardwalk along the river in town.
Current projects and outlook
Currently, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. EPA, and the Manistique River Public Advisory Council are working together to evaluate the status of all of the beneficial use impairments towards delisting.
The Manistique River Public Advisory Council is a group of citizens and government agency personnel which guides pollution cleanup, prevention and resource conservation in the AOC for long-term protection of the Manistique River ecosystem.
What is a beneficial use impairment?
Impairment of beneficial use is a change in the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the Great Lakes system sufficient to cause any of the following 14 use impairments:
- restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- tainted fish and wildlife flavor
- loss of fish or wildlife habitat
- degraded fish and wildlife populations
- fish tumors or other deformities
- bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems
- degradation of benthic macroinvertebrate communities
- restrictions on dredging activities
- eutrophication or undesirable algae
- restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems
- beach closings
- degradation of aesthetics
- added costs to agriculture and industry
- degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton
What is a remedial action plan?
The remedial action plan, or RAP, is a process to clean up the waterfront, rivers, habitats and waters. The United States and Canada, as part of the Great Lake Water Quality Agreement, committed to cooperate with State and Provincial Governments to ensure that RAPs are developed and implemented for all Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. Forty-three AOCs have been identified: 26 located entirely within the United States; 12 located entirely within Canada; and five that are shared by both countries. RAPs address impairments to any one of 14 beneficial uses (e.g., restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, dredging activities, or drinking water consumption) associated with these areas.
What is a delisting target?
In order to move towards formal delisting, RAPs need delisting targets to gauge their success:
- Delisting targets should be premised on local goals and related environmental objectives for the watershed; they should be consistent with the applicable federal and state regulations, objectives, guidelines, standards and policies, when available, and the principles and objectives embodied in Annex 2 and supporting parts of the GLWQA.
- Delisting targets should have measurable indicators.
- Delisting targets should be developed and periodically reviewed on a site specific basis (allowing for flexibility in addressing local conditions) by the respective state agencies, in consultation with local stakeholder groups. This is particularly important if new information becomes available.