Back in 1986, one of my first jobs as a volunteer was to help organize a forum for the public to tell the federal government what should be in the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Not long after that, the two countries created their list of “Areas of Concern,” working rivers and harbors where past pollution continues to weigh down these communities as they try to reach their environmental and economic potential.
About a quarter century later, most of the very same AOCs are still on the list. But, earlier this year, the U.S. Government delisted Erie, Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Bay Area of Concern.
The U.S. Government added Presque Isle Bay to the list in 1991 upon Pennsylvania’s recommendation. Before that, the only other AOC to be delisted was Oswego in New York in 2006.
The U.S. EPA will continue to support Pennsylvania as it monitors conditions in Presque Isle Bay to make sure we don’t go backwards again, re-contaminating the same places the public and Commonwealth worked so hard to clean up.
After years of monitoring and work, I hope Presque Isle leads the way in showing the remaining 29 AOCs in the U.S., or shared with Canada, that it can be done; that once again, these working harbors and rivers can be places where people can go to fish, swim, play, and contribute to local economic revitalization…places that can be counted as areas of care.
About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.