Deer Lake AOC
U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
Mark Loomis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
- 2011 Stage II RAP (PDF) (10 pp, 1.4 MB)
- Guidance for Delisting Michigan’s Areas of Concern (PDF) (66 pp, 737 K)
The Deer Lake Public Advisory Committee has requested that the State of Michigan and EPA begin the process to remove the final Beneficial Use Impairment: Fish Consumption. Removal of this BUI and completion of the Partridge Creek Diversion are the last steps before the AOC can be delisted.
An AOC technical committee has been formed, made up of staff from state and federal agencies, and the PAC's technical committee. The committee is using delisting criteria based on the 2008Guidance for Delisting Michigan's Great Lakes AOCs. Summer 2014 is the targeted date for delisting the Deer Lake AOC.
About Deer Lake AOC
Deer Lake is in central Marquette County near Ishpeming, Michigan. The Area of Concern includes
- Part of Carp Creek, which flows into the south basin of Deer Lake
- Deer Lake, which measures approximately 1000 acres
- The Carp River, which flows about 20 miles from the north basin of Deer Lake to Lake Superior near Marquette
Mercury in Fish
In 1981, the Michigan Department of Community Health discovered that fish in Deer Lake had concentrations of mercury that exceeded the "ban on total consumption." Mercury concentrations in Deer Lake fish also exceeded the mercury levels found in fish from similar lakes at that time.
There were two known industrial sources of mercury to the Deer Lake AOC.
- From 1882-1897 the Ropes Gold and Silver Company used liquid (elemental) mercury to recover gold from ore near the north basin of Deer Lake.
- The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company discharged mercury-containing wastewater from its laboratories into the City of Ishpeming’s wastewater treatment system from 1929-1981. During that time, the city’s wastewater treatment plant discharged primary-treated municipal wastewater into Carp Creek, which then flowed into the south basin of Deer Lake.
In 1987, Deer Lake was declared an Area of Concern and the first remedial action plan document was completed.
Prior restoration projects
Some significant restoration efforts took place before Deer Lake was declared an AOC.
- The City of Ishpeming separated its combined sewers into sanitary sewers and storm sewers by 1985.
- An enhanced secondary wastewater treatment plant replaced the three primary treatment plants in April 1986. The new wastewater treatment system significantly decreased nutrient loading into Deer Lake; for example, phosphorus loading decreased by 86 percent.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems - REMOVED 2011
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae - REMOVED 2011
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae
Restoring the Deer Lake AOC
Partridge Creek Diversion Project
The Partridge Creek diversion project began in 2011 in an effort to eliminate a major source of mercury entering Deer Lake.
Completion of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Partridge Creek diversion will support removal of the fish consumption BUI through reductions in mercury loading to Deer Lake. The project will:
- create improved brook trout habitat
- create green infrastructure
- develop the local economy
- decrease risks to human health
Beginning in 2010, EPA awarded the City of Ishpeming a total of $8 million dollars from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to complete the project. The City of Ishpeming also contributed $700,000 to the project.
Before the diversion project, Partridge Creek flowed into the New York pit mine east of the City of Ishpeming. Clean freshwater entered the mine pit, but became contaminated with mercury as it flowed through the mine workings under the city. The water was discharged on the west side of the city from Partridge Creek into Carp Creek, and then into Deer Lake, where it raised mercury concentrations.
The goal of the project is to prevent mercury from entering Deer Lake by diverting Partridge Creek through historic streambeds and closed culverts, located above the mines where contamination occurs.
The first phase of the project was completed in October 2012. This upstream portion of the project created 0.5 mi of closed culvert and 0.2 mi of open stream.
Phase 2 began in summer 2013 and involves constructing the downstream portion of the creek diversion project. The diversion structure will be finished in November 2013. This part of the project will complete the construction of 0.5 mi of closed culvert and a 0.7 mi of open stream, as well as construct over 1.3 acres of wetlands. The second phase of the Partridge Creek Diversion project is funded by a $6 million non-competitive GLRI grant to the City of Ishpeming. The project will create over a 0.5 mi of prime brook trout habitat and 1.3 acres of new wetlands in the new creek’s floodplain.
When the Partridge Creek project was designed, a key objective was to restore a man-made ditch into its naturally meandering stream channel. One of the critical target species for that habitat was brook trout. Accordingly, the new stream is designed to create brook trout habitat with pools, riffles, meanders and submerged structures.
|Year||Critical Actions||Associated BUIs|
|2012||Phase I of Partridge Creek diversion completed – created 0.5 mile of closed culvert and 0.2 mile of open stream.||Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption|
RAP update - outlined plans for removing the remaining BUI.
|Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption|
Two beneficial use impairments were removed from the Area of Concern.
|2005||MDEQ observed further improvements in winter dissolved oxygen compared with previous studies.||
Eutrophication or undesirable algae
|2005||Long-term monitoring and wildlife study was completed by PAC – initiated removal process for BUI.||Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems|
|2004-2005||Water monitoring conducted by PAC showed valve operation reduced in-lake methylation by 65 percent.||Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption|
|2002||RAP update – set BUI removal goals and recommended remedies to decrease mercury concentrations in fish.||Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption|
|2002||Water quality began to be monitored weekly and improvements were observed.||Eutrophication or undesirable algae|
|1997||Since monitoring began in 1963, bald eagles were found to be successfully reproducing for the first time without deformities when nests were occupied. Breeding remains successful today.||Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems|
|1994||Mercury content of standard northern pike measured below “no consumption” trigger.||Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption|
|1993||Mercury content of brook trout measured below “no consumption” trigger.||Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption|
|1989||MDEQ determined dissolved oxygen content during winter had improved 3 years after wastewater treatment improvements made.||Eutrophication or undesirable algae|
|1987||MDNR published the stage I remedial action plan. Remedial Action Plan for Deer Lake Area of Concern, 1987 (PDF) ( 168 pp, 5.3MB)||
MDEQ is responsible for executing many of the remedial actions that have occurred at Deer Lake. Additionally, they publish the remedial action plan documents.
Visit MDCH's website for the most up-to-date information regarding fish consumption and their "Eat Safe Fish" guide.
The Deer Lake Public Advisory Council has been critical in the restoration of the Deer Lake Area of Concern. The Council has 21 voting members plus three non-voting state agency representatives who serve in an advisory capacity. PAC membership represents a broad cross-section of interests that include the City of Ishpeming, environmental organizations, local businesses, recreation and wastewater treatment.
The PAC provides year-round water quality and wildlife monitoring. They also support volunteer cleanups and habitat restoration projects at streambanks, the lakeshore, public access sites and islands.