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St. Marys River/Tannery Bay cleanup finished

Release Date: 09/20/2007
Contact Information: Phillippa Cannon, 312-353-6218,

No. 07 - OPA162

CHICAGO (Sept. 20, 2007) - The Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup of Tannery Bay on St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., is complete. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Phelps Dodge and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have finished dredging 44,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bay. St. Marys River is the connecting channel between lakes Superior and Huron.

"Thanks to the Great Lakes Legacy Act, this beautiful area is no longer tarnished by the legacy of industrial pollution," said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager Mary Gade. "One of the last known contaminated hot spots on the U.S. side of St. Marys River has now been cleaned up. Large amounts of chromium and mercury no longer contaminate the bay and have been prevented from entering the Great Lakes. Legacy Act projects have shown that it's possible to make meaningful progress in a short period of time toward cleaning up and restoring rivers and harbors around the Great Lakes."

The $8 million cleanup began in September 2006. Cleaning up contaminated sediment from the bay and a nearby wetland removed about 1 million pounds of chromium and 70 pounds of mercury from the environment. The pollution is mainly byproducts from the former Northwestern Leather Co. tannery that operated during the first half of the 20th century.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act provided $4.8 million of the cost of the project and Phelps Dodge, which owns the former tannery property, contributed $2.6 million. Michigan provided $600,000 through its Clean Michigan Initiative.

Congress passed and the president signed the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002 to address the problem of contaminated sediment in American areas of concern on the Great Lakes. Areas of concern are severely degraded sites within the lakes where there is significant pollution. Polluted sediment is a reason many Great Lakes fish are not safe to eat in unlimited quantities. It also harms aquatic life and habitat and pollutes sources of drinking water.

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