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Decades of cleanup work paying off for White Lake
|Project Summary: Intensive cleanup activities have improved water quality, fish health and reduced phosphorus concentrations in White Lake, which is one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern.|
Project name: White Lake Area of Concern cleanup.
Location: Whitehall, Michigan.
Description: White Lake was designated a Great Lakes Area of Concern in 1987 after contaminated groundwater beneath the former Hooker Chemical manufacturing facility seeped into the lake, polluting the water, bottom sediments and tainting fish and wildlife. A tannery on the other side of White Lake contributed to a pollution crisis that harmed the lake and gave the otherwise scenic waterway a bad reputation. The contaminants caused a variety of problems in the lake, including: Contaminated fish, eutrophication (undesirable algae); pollution of drinking water; degraded fish an wildlife populations; loss of fish and wildlife habitat; and damage to bottom dwelling organisms at the base of the lake’s food chain. Cleanup efforts over the past decade have removed tons of contaminated sediments from the lake bottom, halted the flow of polluted groundwater into the lake and reduced the amount of phosphorus entering the lakes. In May 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that White Lake no longer suffered from eutrophication, or excessive algae growth. That announcement moved the lake one step closer to being de-listed as a Great Lakes Area of Concern.
Approximate cost of project: More than $20 million in public and private funds has been spent on removing contaminated sediments at two sites in the lake. The EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided another $2.1 million in 2011 to create fish and wildlife habitat by restoring natural features along a portion of the lake’s shoreline. The habitat restoration work is ongoing.
Resource challenges addressed: Contaminated sediments that harmed water quality, restrictions on fish consumption and excessive phosphorus loadings that caused nuisance algae growth.
Key partners (public and private): U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, city of Whitehall, city of Montague, White Lake Public Advisory Council, Grand Valley State University, Muskegon Conservation District and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.
Types of jobs created: Biologists, chemists, toxicologists, ecologists, excavators, truck driver, heavy equipment operators and general laborers.
Results and accomplishments: Two cleanup projects removed a total of 97,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments, which improved water quality, improved fish and wildlife populations and bolstered a resurgent tourism industry centered largely on the lake.
Web site: http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/aoc/whitelake.html