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Great Lakes AOCs

About Waukegan Harbor AOC

Map showing boundary of Waukegan Harbor AOCBoundary map of Waukegan Harbor AOCWaukegan Harbor was designated as an Area of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  Of the six environmental impairments that were originally present, three remain.  EPA supports monitoring and evaluation determining when environmental conditions are restored, enabling AOC delisting.

AOC Boundaries

The Waukegan Harbor AOC is in Lake County, Illinois, on the western shore of Lake Michigan. An Expanded Study Area (ESA) was added to explore additional concerns of the citizens beyond the AOC. The ESA is bounded by:

  • Dead River to the north
  • A bluff line parallel to Sheridan Road to the west
  • The southern boundary of the former U.S. Steel property to the south
  • The nearshore waters of Lake Michigan to the east.

A natural inlet and portions of adjacent wetlands were filled to form the present shape of the harbor. Waukegan Harbor consists of approximately 1.2 square kilometers of industrial, commercial, municipal and open/vacant lands.

Sources of Pollution

In 1975, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered in Waukegan Harbor sediments. Bioaccumulation of PCBs found in the heavily contaminated harbor sediments lead to contamination of fish in Waukegan Harbor.

Beneficial Use Impairments

Beneficial Use Impairments for the Great Lakes AOCs

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Beach closings – Removed 2011
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat – Removed 2013
  • Restriction on dredging activities– Removed 2014


Restoring Waukegan Harbor AOC (timeline)

Outboard Marine Corporation Superfund Site


The Army Corps is responsible for much of the dredging in Waukegan Harbor and has played a critical role in removing contaminated sediment.

The following links exit the site Exit

The Illinois DNR's Coastal Management Program works towards protecting, monitoring and restoring Illinois coastlines, including Waukegan Harbor.

Illinois EPA was responsible for several of the restoration projects that have been completed at the AOC.

Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) was organized in 1990 to act as a local advisory group to the Illinois EPA to address environmental concerns in the AOC. The CAG is comprised of members from industry, fishing interests, environmental interests and residents. The advisory group has been instrumental in obtaining cooperation from local parties regarding additional investigations. Groundwater monitoring from local parties is being conducted in an area south of the harbor. The CAG helped obtain access from private businesses and federal grant money to install the monitoring wells.

Public participation and the cooperation of state, federal and local agencies are an integral part of the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) process. The development of the Waukegan Harbor RAP has been a cooperative effort including input from representatives from business, government, industry, environmental groups, education, recreation and local citizens.