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2 toxic hot spots down, 12 to go

They're known as "Areas of Concern" and Michigan had 14 of them at one time.

Now, we have 12 of these toxic places where pollution from the past is lingering.

This summer, work crews will tackle the next phase of cleanup in the Muskegon Lake area.

Bear Lake flows into Muskegon Lake.
Credit USEPA
Bear Lake flows into Muskegon Lake.

Kathy Evans is an environmental program manager with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission. Her group is overseeing the $7.9 million cleanup project in Bear Creek and Bear Lake, which run into Muskegon Lake. She says they’ll be digging up sediments and restoring wetlands.

“So once we can address the water quality of Bear Lake, it’ll help us remove the entire Muskegon Lake Area of Concern from that list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern,” she explains.

Evans says all of the cleanup and restoration work should be done by the end of 2018.

“That day, it won’t be just a day, I’m going to celebrate all year, because that’s going to be a really good celebration!"

Two places in Michigan, Deer Lake and White Lake, have come off the Areas of Concern list. The 12 remaining sites are spread throughout Michigan, with eight in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, and four in the Upper Peninsula.

Toxic hotspots, or "Areas of Concern" around Michigan's shoreline.
Credit Great Lakes Commission
The 14 original Areas of Concern in Michigan. Deer Lake and White Lake have been cleaned up and delisted, leaving 12 toxic spots to go.

Matt Doss is policy director at the Great Lakes Commission. It’s an agency that works on behalf of the eight Great Lakes states.

You can listen to our conversation here:

Doss says cleaning up degraded Areas of Concern is a top priority of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and roughly one-third of the $2 billion funding to date is being used for cleanup and restoration work in the AOCs. He expects seven more AOCs in Michigan will be cleaned up over the next five years.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.