EPA reaches milestone of restoring 100 beneficial uses at various Great Lakes Areas of Concern
100 out of a total of 255 Beneficial Use Impairments have now been removed
CHICAGO (Jan. 14, 2021) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the removal of the 100th Beneficial Use Impairment from a U.S. Area of Concern (AOC), a historic milestone in restoring the Great Lakes. The accomplishment occurred at the Black River AOC near Lorain, Ohio -- one of the 43 AOCs identified by the United States and Canada in the mid-1980s as the most environmentally degraded areas in the Great Lakes ecosystem.
“This milestone once again makes clear that this agency and the GLRI has been successful because of the well-coordinated and productive working relationships between EPA and its federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental partners,” said Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “By continuing to work together, we have been able to overcome some of the challenges facing the Great Lakes, and I know the pride our folks here take in these efforts will ensure continued success in addressing these challenges in the years ahead.”
At the Black River AOC, EPA removed the degradation of aesthetics beneficial use impairment that was caused by environmental issues dating back decades, including upland erosion, mill dams, stream channelization and modifications, litter/trash dumping, and oil and grease deposition. With the removal of this BUI, other federal, state, and municipal programs now in place will address any future sources of oil/grease and litter/trash.
“Ohio has worked hard for many years to improve the Black River Area of Concern. State, federal and local efforts have led to today’s removal of the beneficial use impairment for aesthetics,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “Clean and safe water for Ohio is one of the greatest investments for the state.”
“I applaud the EPA for removing a Beneficial Use Impairment in the Black River near Lorain, Ohio, which feeds into Lake Erie,” said Sen. Rob Portman. “This marks the 100th Beneficial Use Impairment that the EPA has removed from a U.S. Area of Concern. Protecting and preserving our Great Lakes is one of my top priorities in the Senate, and this is an important milestone in our efforts to achieve that goal. Earlier this month, I was proud to announce that the president signed into law my bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act to reauthorize the program for the next five years. This successful public-private partnership has helped address the greatest threats to the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species, pollution, and contamination. With more than 10 million people depending on Lake Erie for their drinking water and hundreds of thousands of Ohioans depending upon the Lake for jobs, we must continue our bipartisan work to protect our Great Lakes for the economic and environmental well-being of our region. The removal of this Beneficial Use Impairment signifies the important progress that has been made in our efforts to clean up the Black River Watershed.”
“The removal of this impairment at the Black River AOC is a celebration of what perseverance and hard work can accomplish,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. “The GLRI is an invaluable resource for restoring the Black River. As we continue to remove BUIs, cities around the Great Lakes, like Lorain, will continue to see the ecological benefits of a healthy environment and the economic benefits from an accessible, healthy waterfront.”
“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been critical in our efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem,” said Rep. Dave Joyce, co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. “Today’s announcement regarding the removal of 100 Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) is historic and should be applauded. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to further the progress made possible by GLRI so that we can preserve the lakes for generations to come.”
Beneficial use impairments (BUIs) are specific types of environmental degradation identified at AOCs. There are 14 types of BUIs, including: restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption; beach closings; degradation of aesthetics; restrictions on dredging; and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. BUIs are removed after environmental restoration within the AOC and subsequent testing shows that the criteria for removing a BUI have been met and that the beneficial use has been restored.
Only ten BUIs were removed from the 1980s until the start of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in 2010. Since then, EPA and its many partners accelerated progress being made at AOCs and removed an additional 90 BUIs at 24 different U.S. AOCs across the Great Lakes. These BUI removals are critically important steps towards ultimately delisting the remaining AOCs and promoting economic revitalization in the communities where the AOCs are located.
Under the GLRI Action Plan III, EPA has set a goal of removing a cumulative total of 101 BUIs by the end of September 2021. EPA is on target to exceed that goal. There are 155 BUIs that still need to be removed from the 26 remaining U.S. AOCs. Of the original 31 U.S. AOCs, five have been “delisted” or successfully cleaned up, including the Lower Menominee River AOC on the Michigan and Wisconsin border, which was delisted in the summer of 2020.
These projects are part of the larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the GLRI. In October 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the GLRI Action Plan III, an aggressive plan that will guide Great Lakes restoration and protection activities by EPA and its many partners over the next 5 years.
For more information on GLRI, visit: https://www.glri.us/
For more information on BUIs, visit: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/beneficial-use-impairments-great-lakes-aocs
For more information on the Black River AOC: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/black-river-aoc