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Detroit River

Contact Information

U.S. EPA RAP Liaison:
Rose Ellison
(ellison.rosanne@epa.gov)
734-692-7689
US EPA
Southeaste Michigan Field Office
9311 Groh Road
Grosse Ile, MI 48138-1697

State RAP Contact:
Laura A. Esman
(esmanl@michigan.gov)
517-241-8878
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
525 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30273
Lansing, MI 48909

Detroit River RAP Committee Chair
Charlie Bristol
(river@detroitriver.org)
313-282-6339
Michigan Statewide Public Advisory Council Representative
Friends of the Detroit River
3020 Oakwood Boulevard
Melvindale, MI 48122-1120

Frequent Acronyms
Detroit River AoC Boundary Map

Detroit River AOC Boundary Map (PDF) (1pg, 1.4MB)

Detroit River shape file (ZIP) (122K)

Background

The Detroit River is a 32-mile international connecting channel linking Lake St. Clair and the upper Great Lakes to Lake Erie. The Detroit River Area of Concern (AOC) is a binational AOC which drains approximately 700 square miles of land in Michigan and Ontario, as well as the 107 square mile City of Detroit "sewershed." Approximately 75 percent of the total land area of the watershed is in Michigan (607.7 square miles).

Eleven beneficial use impairments have been identified in the Detroit River. The known causes of impairments include urban and industrial development in the watershed, bacteria, PCBs, PAHs, metals, and oils and greases. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and municipal and industrial discharges are major sources of contaminants within the AOC. Stormwater runoff and tributaries in Michigan are also major sources of contaminants. Additional environmental concerns include invasive species, changes in the fish community structure, and reductions in fish and wildlife habitat.

Detroit River priorities include control of combined sewer overflows, control of sanitary sewer overflows, point/nonpoint source pollution controls, remediation of contaminated sediments, habitat restoration, and pollution prevention.

On April 17, 1998 in Windsor, the governments of Canada, the United States, Ontario and Michigan signed a Letter of Commitment regarding the restoration and cleanup of the Detroit, St. Clair and St. Mary's Rivers. The Letter of Commitment specifies the roles and responsibilities of the four agencies in implementing and restoring the Areas of Concern shared between Canada, the United States, Ontario and Michigan. These roles and responsibilities include administrative commitments, development of a binational delisting process, public involvement and outreach and reporting progress to the International Joint Commission and the public.

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Beneficial Use Impairments

According to the Detroit River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) – Stage 1, the impaired beneficial uses of the Detroit River were originally listed primarily due to contaminants caused by CSOs, industrial and municipal discharges, and nonpoint sources such as stormwater runoff from urban and industrial areas. Michigan CSOs are a major source of contaminants that cause fish consumption advisories, total body contact advisories, exceedances of ambient water quality criteria and degradation of aesthetics. Michigan point sources were also a large source of many of the contaminants that cause use impairments. Several Michigan and Ontario wastewater treatment plants were identified as contributors of bacteria to the Detroit River, although their contributions were insignificant compared to CSOs.

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RAP Development and Status

The Detroit River Remedial Action Plan Stage I document was originally completed in 1992 to address the water quality issues associated with the Detroit River. The RAP identified eight beneficial use impairments (BUI). In 1996, a RAP update was completed by professionals and community representatives in the AOC. It was developed as a binational effort led by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to address the BUIs or water use goals. Approximately 104 recommendations were developed with the goal of restoring and maintaining the integrity of the Detroit River ecosystem to a standard that will provide a safe, clean, and self-sustaining natural environment, such that (1) self-reproducing, diverse biological communities are restored and maintained, and (2) the presence of contaminants does not limit the use or appreciation of fish, wildlife or waters of the river.

In 1999, the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup Committee completed an updated report on the Detroit River AOC. The report discussed current status of the BUIs, and added two BUIs to the list of impaired uses. The 1999 report was not ever formally adopted by the parties to the Four Agency Agreement. The RAP was updated again in 2002 to report on restoration activities, new data, and the status of BUIs.

In 2005, the Friends of the Detroit River agreed to become the lead local organization for the Detroit River AOC, and coordinate a Public Advisory Council for the AOC.

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Significant RAP Milestones

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RAP Implementation

Recent progress and achievements

Current projects and outlook

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RAP-Related Publications

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Community Involvement

The Detroit River Area of Concern has a number of local and regional initiatives being carried out at the community, county, or regional level that implement the objectives of the Detroit River Remedial Action Plan. These initiatives, often partnerships or collaborations with local residents, businesses, institutions, local, county, and state government, deliver educational programming, habitat restoration projects, mobilize financial support, and monitor initiatives that impact water quality within the Detroit River watershed.

In 2005, the Friends of the Detroit River (FDR) agreed to take on the role as coordinator of the local Public Advisory Council for the Detroit River AOC. FDR has been a long-time active organization in the restoration and protection of the Detroit River.

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Photos

Drawing depicts an area view of proposed redevelopment of the Black Lagoon area

Drawing depicts an aerial view of proposed redevelopment of the Black Lagoon area.

Environmental dredging equipment in place at the Black Lagoon project site

Environmental dredging equipment in place at the Black Lagoon project site.

Aerial view of Black Lagoon oil plume near McLouth Steel plant, 1961

Aerial view of Black Lagoon oil plume near McLouth Steel plant, 1961.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Chester acknowledges the completion of the BlackLagoon Legacy Act cleanup at an onsite ceremony in December 2005

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Chester acknowledges the completion of the Black Lagoon Legacy Act cleanup at an onsite ceremony in December 2005.


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