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3 toxic hot spots down, 11 to go

International Joint Commission

Another of Michigan’s Areas of Concern has been cleaned up and taken off the list. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of Canada and the U.S. identified 43 pollution hot spots around the Great Lakes and identified them as Areas of Concern.

The Lower Menominee River at the Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula border was one of them. It has now been removed from the Areas of Concern list.

“There was some significant arsenic contamination from a factory on the Wisconsin side of the river in Marinette. And on the Michigan side, we had a paint factory that ended up discharging a lot of paint sludge,” said Rick Hobrla, Chief of the Great Lakes Management Unit within the Water Resources Division of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also identified coal tar as one of many other pollutants in the last three miles of the Menominee River before it enters the Green Bay of Lake Michigan.


Much of the wildlife habitat along the river was also destroyed, but has been replaced.

“Traditionally, the Menominee River was one of the best spots for sturgeon spawning and the creation of a couple of dams down there blocked off their access,” Hobrla said.

Wildlife experts found a way to get the sturgeon back to their spawning grounds by using a kind of elevator to get them past the dams.

There were originally 14 Areas of Concern in Michigan. Three are now off the list. Another five could be off the list in a couple of years. The final six will take many more years to clean up.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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