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St. Louis River Reaches First Step Toward Recovery

Updated: 08/29/2014 6:18 PM
Created: 08/29/2014 4:41 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
blesavage@wdio.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that the St. Louis River is one step closer to being delisted as an area of concern along the Great Lakes.

Susan Hedman, EPA's regional administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager, said the first of nine environmental impairments, which originally put the river on the Areas of Concern list, has been lifted one year ahead of schedule. The first impairment included removing sediments and repairing the river's habitat. 

The St. Louis River is one of 43 contaminated sites on the Great Lakes designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern by the United States and Canada under the 1987 Great lakes Water Quality Agreement. 

Hedman said $33 million in funding gathered since the 1990s from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Minnesota and Wisconsin helped reach this goal.  Federal funding accounts for $24 million of that, some coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

"Today, you don't see any oil or tar residue floating on the river, there's no floating grain dust and no foam and the river no longer smells like oil," Hedman said. "Today, the river and the harbor look great because of the outstanding teamwork by local state and federal agencies."

Congressmen Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) worked together across state and party lines to help make restoration funding a reality.  

The rest of the eight remaining projects include assisting with fish tumors and deformities, beach closings and body contact restrictions and fish consumption advisories. They hope to have the St. Louis River delisted from the Area of Concerns by 2025. 

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