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About the Great Lakes Legacy Act

The Great Lakes Legacy Act has been a tremendous success. The Legacy Act was authorized in 2002 with the first appropriation in 2004. The Act was Reauthorized in 2008. Since its passage, U.S. EPA has invested some $338 million to address contaminated sediment in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. This money has leveraged an additional $227 million from nonfederal sponsors. This work has resulted in cleanups at 19 sites. Since 2004, 4 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments have been remediated under GLLA. The Legacy Act program has also been used to evaluate 23 additional sites, at full federal expense, to characterize the extent of sediment contamination and position them for future cleanups.

A key reason for the success of the Legacy Act is its ability to enable strong partnerships with states, federal agencies, municipalities and businesses through a collaborative approach to cleaning up contaminated sites. For this reason, some 37 companies from various industries have contributed more than $74 million to Legacy Act sediment projects.

Investing in the Great Lakes

Contaminated sediment in the 30 Areas of Concern, together with degraded former industrial sites, or brownfields, are major impediments to communities struggling to revitalize their waterfronts with new commercial enterprises, real estate and recreational amenities that can boost tourism.

Sediment is most often contaminated with toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals like mercury, and oil, grease or other petroleum byproducts. Before modern pollution laws went into effect, these pollutants settled into sediment at the bottom of rivers and harbors that flow into the lakes, where they continue to threaten public health, contaminate fish and wildlife, and make waterfronts unusable to our coastal communities.

Despite the complexity and expense of cleaning up the Areas of Concern, many states and local communities are seeing success from their past efforts. Federal funds are available to support cleanup efforts and help communities fulfill the promise of economic revitalization, increased property values and an improved quality of life. Under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies are prioritizing cleanups in the 30 AOCs.