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GLIN==> PA recommends to federal officials that Presque Isle Bay Area of Concern be first in nation to reach 'recovery'

Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120

CONTACT: Freda Tarbell
Phone: (814) 332-6816

Change in status proposed due to environmental improvement

ERIE (Oct. 1) -- On behalf of Gov. Mark Schweiker, Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess today formally
recommended to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the
Presque Isle Bay Area of Concern be designated in the Recovery Stage, as a
result of significant environmental improvement in the bay over the past
"This designation recognizes the improvements made to the environmental
health of the bay during the 10 years since its listing as an Area of
Concern, the only Great Lakes community where the citizens petitioned for
its listing," Secretary Hess said. "Today, it becomes the first Area of
Concern in the nation to be recommended for recovery status -- a remarkable
achievement. Today's proposal to EPA acknowledges the progress that we have
made through cooperation and a shared commitment to a cleaner environment."

Several studies indicate improvement in the bay -- the incidence of fish
tumors has dropped dramatically since the bay was designated and sediments
have proven less toxic than originally believed.

"This is a major milestone for this community, DEP, the International Joint
Commission and EPA," EPA Region 3 Administrator Donald S. Welsh said. "I am
delighted to accept this recommendation and to recognize that the city of
Erie and its citizens deserve much of the credit. It was the community that
motivated this process and invested millions of dollars in the local sewage
system to create a cleaner bay."

Last fall the city of Erie completed a 12-year, $100 million project that
resulted in a major expansion of its sewage-treatment plant and improvements
to the rest of the sewage system. Congressman Phil English secured a $13
million federal appropriation to support this project. These upgrades have
curtailed the flow of inadequately treated sewage into the bay and have
played a significant role in the bay's improved health.

"Erie has demonstrated leadership in making substantial progress toward
restoring beneficial uses in Presque Isle bay," International Joint
Commission (IJC) U.S. Section Chair Dennis Schornack said. "The support
provided by the community should serve as an example to other areas of

The Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee voted this spring to support
the Recovery Stage recommendation. Under EPA guidelines, the new status
calls for a pollution-prevention plan and a monitoring program to reduce the
risk of future degradation and ensure that recovery continues. Upon EPA
approval, the recommendation will be submitted to the IJC for its action.

In 1988 local citizens petitioned the IJC Science Advisory Board to include
the bay as an Area of Concern. In 1991, the IJC listed Presque Isle Bay as
an Area of Concern after research concluded fish tumors and restrictions on
dredging activities indicated substantial sediment contamination.

"This is an important step in realizing President Bush's vision that the
Great Lakes become and remain a healthy natural environment for wildlife and
people," EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Office
Manager Tom Skinner said. "The knowledge we have gained from our partners in
the U.S. and Canada will be most helpful in our efforts to bring other Areas
of Concern to this status."

EPA Region 3 includes Pennsylvania and is headquartered in Philadelphia. EPA
Region 5 and the Great Lakes National Program Office headquarters are in
Chicago. The International Joint Commission (IJC) is an independent joint
Canadian and U.S. federal government agency that oversees shared water
resources of both countries.

For more information on water quality, visit DEP through the PA PowerPort at
www.state.pa.us, PA KeyWord, "water quality".

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