Working Towards a Cleaner St. Louis River
Posted at: 03/21/2013 9:26 PM
| Updated at: 03/21/2013 10:29 PM
By: Maarja Anderson
The St. Louis River Alliance released a report Thursday highlighting the progress made over the past 24 years to restore and revitalize the river.
In 1989, the St. Louis River was named an Area of Concern (AOC), one of the 43 most polluted sites around the Great Lakes. Getting the river back on track has been a collaborated effort between federal, state, and tribal agencies. They said the river has come a long way since the 1980's, but there's still plenty of work to do.
Julene Boe with the St. Louis River Alliance calls the river a toxic hot spot of the Great Lakes.
"We have such a great lake that it outshines the river and when the river was so polluted, a lot of people didn't want to go near the river," said Boe.
The progress they've made can be seen at the Great Lakes Aquarium where a new exhibit shares the past, present, and future of the river. The pollution came to a head in the 1970's after years of untreated sewage and industrial waste was dumped into the river.
"The biggest progress for the river was when the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District plant was constructed and...collected and treated all the materials that were being dumped," said WLSSD board member, Bill Majewski.
The opening of the waste water treatment plant in 1978 is one of the achievements highlighted in the progress report.
Since then, around $420 million dollars have been invested into infrastructure, restoration, and clean-up projects.
The St. Louis River Alliance said they hope their progress report helps the public realize the importance of a healthy river, not only in terms of drinking water, but for recreation and industry, too.
The report lists nine areas of concern that still need to be addresses. Their two main priorities are cleaning-up sediment and restoring habitat, with their ultimate goal of being taken off the Area of Concern list by 2025.