For Immediate Release Contact:
Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006 Bill Muno, Alliance: 847-309-3995
Cameron Davis, Alliance: 312-375-2004
30 Years Later: Regional Leaders Call for Local Investment to Clean Up Waukegan Harbor
WAUKEGAN, Ill. -- As the eligibility deadline for millions of dollars in federal funds draws near, regional leaders today urged the Lake County Board to vote for $2.5 million in local matching funds to clean up Waukegan Harbor.
Once billed the worlds worst PCB mess, and tagged with fish consumption advisories again this year, the Waukegan Harbor cleanup is estimated at $36 million. Federal funding would cut the price tag by more than half, however, as the recently reauthorized Great Lakes Legacy Act calls on federal agencies to provide 65 percent of cleanup funds. Local sources must pay the remaining 35 percent of the cost, or $12 million in this case.
The Lake County Board is scheduled to vote on whether to approve $2.5 million in matching county funds on Tuesday, Nov. 14, acting on the October recommendation of its Financial and Administrative Committee.
Approval of the county funds could help trigger matching funds by local, state and private sources, financial commitments that must be obtained and submitted along with an application for federal cleanup funds by July 2007 for the 65 percent federal match to be considered.
We need to act, and we need to act now, said Bill Muno, who sits on the board of directors for the Alliance for the Great Lakes (formerly the Lake Michigan Federation), and oversaw hundreds of contaminated sites around the Upper Midwest as former head of the U.S. EPA Region 5 Superfund program. For the sake of our communities health, we can no longer afford further delays in getting the cleanup job done.
Sediment sampling results returned 30 years ago, in January 1976, confirmed Waukegan Harbor was highly contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl's (PCBs). By 1987, the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission had designated the harbor one of 42 Great Lakes Areas of Concern, and warned of the health risks to people who ate PCB-tainted fish from its waters.
Once designated a federal Superfund cleanup site, partial removal of the contaminated sediment took place in 1993, followed by the lifting of fish consumption warnings in 1997.
Still, part of the harbor remains contaminated. The proposed federal and local funding package would complete the cleanup effort, thereby making Waukegan Harbor -- the state of Illinois only Area of Concern -- finally eligible for de-listing.
A cleanup of the harbor would bring economic benefits as well. A 2003 study by the University of Illinois and the Northeast-Midwest Institute projected the harbor cleanup would trigger a $200 to $800 million aggregate increase in local property values, and an increase of up to $53,000 in the property value of the average Waukegan homeowner.
This year also marks the return of fish consumption advisories for the harbor, warnings that children, women of childbearing years, and other sensitive populations should not eat certain fish caught from the waterway because of developmental and other health risks posed by PCBs.
We applaud the recommendation of the members of the Financial and Administrative Committee, and urge the full board to approve the recommendation, said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and former founding co-chair of the Waukegan Citizens Advisory Group (CAG), a multi-stakeholder organization formed in 1990 to press for cleanup.
Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest citizens Great Lakes organization in North America. Our mission is to conserve and restore the worlds largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife.