August 6, 2008

Input Sought on St. Louis River Cleanup

By John Myers, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.

Aug. 6--The St. Louis River's last run, through Duluth and Superior and into Lake Superior, may some day be clean enough to take off the list of the most contaminated sites along the Great Lakes.

But exactly how clean does the river have to get before it's no longer considered one of 43 polluted "Areas of Concern'' on the lakes?

That's the subject of a series of public input sessions scheduled this month in the Twin Ports, sponsored by the St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring all of the areas of concern to submit a list of delisting targets by the end of 2008 -- targeting what needs to be completed before the areas are considered clean.

The list will serve as a benchmark to determine when the areas are considered clean enough to be off the list.

In the mid-1980s, the International Joint Commission listed the St. Louis River as one of 43 Areas of Concern on the Great Lakes.

Since then, only one site in Ohio has been fully restored. But some progress has been made, with wastewater treatment plants cleaning up sewage and polluted hotspots such as Hog Island Inlet in Superior and Stryker Bay in Duluth inching toward recovery.

For the St. Louis River estuary, there still are nine different problems considered so severe that they restrict or prevent use of the river for fishing, swimming or fish or wildlife habitat. Those problems have led to fish consumption advisories and polluted sediments.

Julene Boe, executive director of the St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee, said her group is working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to develop the criteria for each of nine problem areas of the lower river.

"We're going to give people a little history on where the river has been, what kind of progress has been made and what is still out there to be done,'' Boe said. "We want people's feelings on where we need to be going forward.''

Suzanne Hanson, regional manager in Duluth for the PCA, said the state agencies are responsible for setting the goals and eventually getting the cleanup jobs done.

"The two states are required by the EPA to come up with the de-listing targets for the river, and we want as much advice from the public as we can get," Hanson said. "There's some pressure now to see some progress on these areas. And there's some energy out there now in support of the [Great Lakes] that we'd like to harness and speed this process up."

For the St. Louis River, the nine problems include fish contamination, reduced fish and wildlife populations, fish tumors and other deformities, degraded aquatic life on the river bottom, excessive sediment and nutrients running off adjacent lands, beaches closed because of high bacteria levels and decreased aesthetic values.

Public input sessions on St. Louis River pollution cleanup

Aug. 7: 6-8:30 p.m., Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Ave, Superior

Aug. 13: 6-8:30 p.m., City Center West. 5830 Grand Ave, Duluth

Aug. 20: 6-8:30 p.m., Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Ave, Superior

Aug. 21: 6-8:30 p.m., City Center West, 5830 Grand Ave, Duluth

People can attend meetings outside their home state. Call (218) 733-9520 for more information.


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