Huge source of PCBs removed
from Milwaukee River
The dredging of 140,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Milwaukee’s Lincoln Creek and the Milwaukee River channel removed the largest source of toxic PCBs in the river, which will reduce contaminant concentrations in fish.
Historic pollution contaminated parts of the Milwaukee River estuary with PCBs and other toxins that pose health threats to aquatic organisms, wildlife and humans. The contaminated sediments prompted warnings urging people to limit their consumption of fish caught in the river; the pollutants also were the main reason the Milwaukee River estuary was listed as a Great Lakes Area of Concern. In 2008, state and federal agencies began working on a plan to clean up the contaminated river bottom sediments, which were located in Milwaukee and nearby Glendale. The first phase of the cleanup, completed in January 2012, removed nearly 10,000 dump trucks of contaminated material that contained 5,000 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 4,000 pounds of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Crews also restored native fish and wildlife habitat where the cleanup took place, stabilized stream banks and re-shaped the bottom of the river channels. More dredging could take place after scientists complete a study characterizing the extent of contaminated sediments remaining in the river and creek. Any cleanup activities resulting from that study would take place in 2013.
Resource Challenges Addressed
- Contaminated sediment
- Fish consumption advisories
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
MILWAUKEE RIVER SEDIMENT CLEANUP
Location: Milwaukee, Wis.
Approximate cost: $24,600,000, with $16,000,000 of that provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Key partners: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Milwaukee County Parks
Types of jobs created: Toxicologists, ecologists, biologists, excavators and other heavy equipment operators, general laborers and chemists
Results and Accomplishments
Removed about 140,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.