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Eighteenmile Creek AOC

Contact Information

U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
Barbara Belasco
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2
290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007-1866

State RAP Contact
Don Zelazny
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
270 Michigan Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14203

RAC Co-Chairs
Roy Knapp & Theodore Belling
Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District
Attn: RAC
4487 Lake Avenue
Lockport, NY 14094

Local RAP Coordinator
Ryan Perrello
716-434-4949 ext. 114
Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District

Frequent Acronyms

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Eighteenmile Creek River AoC Boundary Map

Eighteenmile Creek AOC Boundary Map (PDF) (1pg, 515K)

Eighteenmile shape file (ZIP) (14K)


The Eighteenmile Creek Area of Concern (AOC) is located in the Town of Newfane, Niagara County, in western New York State. The creek flows from the south and discharges through Olcott Harbor into Lake Ontario, approximately 18 miles east of the mouth of the Niagara River. The AOC includes Olcott Harbor at the mouth of the creek and extends upstream to the farthest point at which backwater conditions exist during Lake Ontario’s highest monthly average lake level. This point is located just downstream of the Burt Dam, approximately 2 miles south of Olcott Harbor. The Eighteenmile Creek watershed downstream of the Burt Dam is primarily composed of cropland, orchards and residential areas. Upstream of the Burt Dam, the watershed is composed mainly of cropland and orchards, with residential and commercial areas like the historically industrialized City of Lockport.

As of January 1, 2005, the Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District has taken over as coordinator of Eighteenmile Creek’s Remedial Action Plan (RAP). The District also assists the Eighteenmile Creek Remedial Advisory Committee (RAC) by facilitating their quarterly meetings and providing staff support towards the implementation of the creek’s RAP. For more information about the RAC and the RAP, please visit www.eighteenmilerap.com, or see Community Involvement below.

Priorities for the Eighteenmile Creek continue to include track-down of possible sources of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and other contaminants, identification and assessment of contaminated sediments present throughout the creek, and the assessment of Beneficial Use Impairments which remain classified as "unknown" and "likely." The Eighteenmile Creek corridor and Olcott Harbor provide important riparian and aquatic habitat for cold and warm water fish as well as threatened species like the Blanding’s Turtle, which has been identified in the AOC. The AOC is mainly characterized by activities like sport fishing and attracts approximately 15,000 anglers yearly, especially during fall salmon runs. For these reasons, additional priorities for Eighteenmile Creek include habitat creation and restoration as well as improved fishing and recreation access.

Why was this area listed as an AOC?

In 1985 Eighteenmile Creek was designated as an AOC because of water quality and bottom sediment problems associated with past industrial and municipal discharge practices, the disposal of waste and the use of pesticides. Over the years, numerous contaminants have been identified in creek sediments which have a detrimental effect to the AOC and Lake Ontario. These contaminants include but are not limited to; Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); Mercury; Dioxins and Furans; Dieldrin; Mirex; DDT; Lead; and Copper. Sediments contaminated with these substances have contributed to the restrictions of fish and wildlife consumption, degradation of benthitic organisms, and restrictions on dredging activities in the AOC. It is also suspected that these contaminated sediments contribute to a degradation of fish and wildlife populations, the presence of fish tumors, and the prevalence of bird and animal deformities or reproductive problems.

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Beneficial Use Impairments

  1. Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  2. Degradation of benthos
  3. Restriction on dredging activities

In addition, three beneficial uses need further assessment to determined their status:

  1. Degradation of fish and wildlife populations (further assessment needed)
  2. Fish tumors or other deformities (further assessment needed)
  3. Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems (further assessment needed)

Through the Remedial Action Planning (RAP) process the Eighteenmile Creek Remedial Advisory Committee (RAC) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) identified several of the 14 priority beneficial uses set forth by the International Joint Commission as being impaired. Confirmed beneficial use impairments in the AOC include Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption, Degradation of Benthos, and Restrictions on Dredging Activities. Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems is classified as "likely" at this time. Additional beneficial use impairments currently classified as "unknown" include Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations and the Presence of Fish Tumors or Other Deformities.

Prior to 2002, the status of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations in the AOC was "unknown." A June 2002 study of the plankton community conducted by SUNY Brockport Center for Applied Aquatic Science and Aquaculture confirmed that the plankton use impairment indicator was not impaired.

Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption:
A fish consumption advisory has been imposed in the Eighteenmile Creek AOC due to PCB contamination. Fish that migrate from Lake Ontario are present in the AOC as well. An advisory exists for Lake Ontario as well due to PCB, Mirex and Dioxin contamination Advisories are as follows:

Eighteenmile Creek

Lake Ontario

Degradation of Benthos:

Past studies have evaluated the toxicity of sediments as well as the species makeup of benthic organisms in the AOC. In general, the results indicate that sediments in the AOC are less contaminated than those upstream of it. They also show that in most parts of the AOC the surface sediments are more contaminated. Microtox measurements taken in the AOC suggest possible sediment toxicity. The assessment of the number and species diversity of the benthic organisms in the AOC indicates a slight to moderate impairment.

Restrictions on Dredging Activities:

Maintenance dredging for recreational boating in the AOC has been determined to be impaired. Interim guidance values for sediment contamination for both the EPA and DEC are exceeded. Pollutants consist of chromium, copper, lead, manganese, nickel, zinc, cyanides, mercury and benzo(a)anthracene. Dredged materials from the mid-point of the harbor area are unsuitable for open lake disposal.

Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems:

The likely status of this use impairment is caused by the presence of PCBs, DDT and some other contaminants exceeding wildlife criteria. Concentration in adult fish flesh and the concern for bioaccumulation will require further study of this use impairment.

Fish Tumors or Other Deformities:

The Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District has recently completed a plan to assess the prevalence of fish tumors in AOC fish populations and is currently seeking grant monies needed to fund a fish pathology study required to determine the status of this use impairment.

Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations:

Historical information indicates portions of the creek were polluted and fish populations were degraded. The Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District has recently completed a plan to assess the status of fish and wildlife populations in the AOC and is currently seeking grant monies to fund a population survey required to determine the status of this use impairment.

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Delisting Targets

The Eighteenmile Creek RAC is in the process of collaborating with the Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District to determine suitable and attainable delisting targets for the AOC. Utilizing criteria released by the International Joint Commission, the two entities will collaborate with various federal and state agencies to achieve success. It is important to remember that the Eighteenmile Creek AOC is affected mostly by the area upstream of the AOC and the backwater conditions of Lake Ontario. At the very least delisting targets will need to be synonymous with the attainable goals of both of these sources. For updates as to the status of Eighteenmile Creek’s delisting targets, please visit www.eighteenmilerap.com Exit disclaimer.

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RAP Development and Status

Development of the Eighteenmile Creek RAP was initiated in March of 1994. A combined final Stage 1 and Stage 2 RAP document was completed and published in August 0f 1997 by NYSDEC in cooperation with the Eighteenmile Creek RAC. Efforts to complete this publication included conducting two RAP review workshops, public information and comment meetings, field trips, as well as numerous committee meetings. A RAP Status Report document was completed by the NYSDEC in June of 2001. A Status Report document is scheduled for completion in December 2005 by the Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District.

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Significant RAP Milestones

Eighteenmile Creek Watershed Project Catalogue (PDF) (3pp, 11K) Exit EPA Disclaimer has a complete list of projects.

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RAP Implementation

Recent progress and achievements

Current projects and outlook

Implementation of the Eighteenmile Creek RAP is a continuous process that will include periodic updates and improvements as knowledge of the use impairments, sources and the effectiveness of remedial actions increases in the future. Remedial actions will be evaluated and coordinated as to the impacts on restoration of beneficial uses. Within the AOC and watershed, a number of studies and assessments mentioned above will continue to be priorities. These include fish and wildlife consumption restrictions, habitat creation, sediment investigations and contaminant track-downs. Restoring and maintaining an improved quality of life in the ecosystem of the Eighteenmile Creek AOC and its watershed is the ultimate goal.

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RAP-Related Publications

The Niagara County Soil & Water Conservation District maintains an online repository of AOC-related documents. Exit EPA Disclaimer

An Eighteenmile Creek Documents, Reports & Data table provides a listing of RAP-related documents by title, date, type, availability and source.

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Community Involvement

The Eighteenmile Creek Remedial Advisory Committee (RAC) is a group of local officials, landowners, and stakeholders selected by the commissioner of the NYSDEC to provide a balanced representation of various segments of the community along the creek. Initially, the RAC worked cooperatively with the NYSDEC to organize, develop and review the RAP and create public awareness and support for Eighteenmile Creek. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the RAC to:

The RAC has been instrumental in the development of the RAP and the implementation of public outreach activities. These activities have maintained the continued involvement and interest of the organizations represented on the RAC and built general interest and support for the RAP in the community.

The Newfane Intermediate School and Town of Newfane Environmental Fair is an annual event that occurs within the Eighteenmile Creek AOC. Every year, students travel down to the creek where they are broken up into groups and rotated through seven learning stations. Each learning station provides the students with information on such topics as conservation facts, wildlife rehabilitation, water quality protection, tree and shrub planting and the restoration of Eighteenmile Creek.

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photo: Many people now enjoy fishing by the recently-installed rock wall

Many people now enjoy fishing by the recently-installed rock wall.

The new rock wall has helped improve fishery habitat in Eighteenmile Creek

The new rock wall has helped improve fishery habitat in Eighteenmile Creek.

dignitaries poised with shovels

Groundbreaking for a Streambank Stabilization & Habitat Restoration Project in the town of Newfane, Niagara County, along a quarter-mile stretch of Eighteenmile Creek. Included in the picture is Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Niagara County Center for Economic Development Staff and 2 Niagara County Legislators.

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