St. Clair River
U.S. EPA RAP Liaison
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Southeast Michigan Field Office
9311 Groh Road
Grosse Ile, MI 48138-1697
State RAP Contact
Laura A. Esman
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
525 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30273
St. Clair River Binational Public Advisory
6318 Rynn Road
North Street, MI 48049
Environment Canada – Ontario Region
867 Lakeshore Road
Burlington ON L7R 4A6
Ontario Ministry of the Environment
733 Exeter Road
London, ON N6E 1L3
- Canadian Remedial Action Plan Implementation Committee
- City of Port Huron
- City of St. Clair
- Ducks Unlimited
- Environment Canada
- Great Lakes Commission
- Great Lakes Protection Fund
- Harsens Island-St. Clair Flats Association
- Lambton Rural Stewardship Network
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
- Ontario Ministry of the Environment
- Sarnia - Lambton Environmental Association
- Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)
- St. Clair County Health Department
- St. Clair River Binational Public Advisory Council (BPAC)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District
- U.S. Coast Guard District 9 – Sector Detroit
- U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service
- U.S. EPA – Great Lakes National Program Office
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Beneficial Use Impairments
- Delisting Targets
- RAP Development and Status
- Significant RAP Milestones
- RAP Implementation
- RAP-Related Publications
- Community Involvement
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The St. Clair River flows southward about 40 miles (64 km) connecting the southern tip of Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair. The river is part of the boundary between the United States and Canada.
The St. Clair River branches into several channels near its mouth at Lake St. Clair, creating a broad delta region. The Area of Concern (AOC) includes these important wetlands from St. Johns Marsh on the west (near Anchor Bay) to the north shore of Mitchell's Bay in Ontario.
Agriculture is the predominant land use within the river's watershed, but intensive development has occurred in and near the cities of Port Huron and Sarnia. The heaviest concentration of industry (including a large petrochemical complex) lies along the Ontario shore near Sarnia. Several communities along the St. Clair rely on the river as their primary source of drinking water. Industries -- including petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturers, paper mills, salt producers and electric power plants -- need high quality water for their operations as well. Ships carrying cargo between the upper and lower Great Lakes ply the St. Clair River.
St. Clair River RAP priorities include contaminated sediment remediation on the Canadian side of the river, elimination of CSOs and SSOs on both sides of the river, elimination of spills to the river from "Chemical Valley" downstream of Sarnia, Ontario, and ensuring proper notification when spills do occur.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor
- Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor
- Beach closings
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
- Added costs to agriculture or industry
- Degradation of benthos
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
For further information on St. Clair River beneficial use impairments, see the RAP documents listed in the Significant RAP Milestones section below.
St. Clair River AOC has some general delisting targets incorporated in the Stage 2 RAP and updates. The delisting criteria are not specific enough to determine restoration success for all of the BUIs. In 2006, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) will work with the Binational Public Advisory Council, U.S. EPA, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and Environment Canada to refine the delisting criteria based on current U.S. and Canadian federal and state guidance and standards.
Delisting Targets for Loss of Fish/Wildlife Habitat Beneficial Use Impairment (PDF) (48pp, 2.60MB) November 2012
RAP Development and Status
The St. Clair River AOC Stage 1 Remedial Action Plan was released in 1992. It identified the BUIs in the St. Clair River, described the extent and scope of the impairments, and discussed the causes of water quality degradation in the AOC.
A Stage 2 document was completed in 1995 which identified the water use goals, and remedial actions needed, and outlined an implementation strategy. An Implementation Annex was completed in 1997 which summarized measures to date and identified further implementation commitments for the U.S. and Canadian sides of the AOC. A Stage 1 Update was also prepared in 1997.
In 2005, Environment Canada and Ontario Ministry of the Environment, with input from MDEQ and U.S. EPA, took the lead in preparing a St. Clair River AOC Progress Report to evaluate current status of the BUIs in the river.
The United States and Canada have pledged their cooperation to restore the shared upper connecting channel AOCs (St. Marys, St. Clair, and Detroit Rivers) under the terms of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The St. Clair River AOC is managed under a binational governance structure created under the Four Agency Letter of Commitment that was signed on April 17, 1998, by Environment Canada, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Significant RAP Milestones
- 2008: St. Clair RAP Update (PDF 193Kb 19 pages) (December 2008)
- 2005: St. Clair River RAP Progress Report completed.
- 1997: St. Clair River RAP Implementation Annex (PDF 193Kb 64 pages) completed.
- 1995: Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 – Recommended Plan (PDF 9.62Mb
124 pages) completed.
- St. Clair River Stage 1 and Stage 2 RAP (PDF 490Mb 760 pages) documents combined.
- 1992: St. Clair River Stage 1 RAP (PDF 27.06Mb 495 pages) document published.
- 1988: St. Clair River Binational Public Advisory Councilformed.
Recent progress and achievements
- In 2005, wetlands were developed on the ICI Phosphate site near Corruna, ON in order to treat wastewater prior to discharging into the St. Clair River. Work undertaken on this site is a part of the long term site restoration plan.
- In 2005, a 50-acre naturalization project on Terra Industries property directly adjacent to the St. Clair River south of Sarnia was completed which included planting and restoration of trees and shrubs, tall grass prairie and wetlands. Terra Industries Inc. (which is a nitrogen producing facility) provided the land, and the work was carried out by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Rural Lambton Stewardship Network and Ducks Unlimited Canada.
- In 2001, the City of Sarnia completed $30 million in sewage treatment plant upgrades and to secondary treatment, and upgrades and retrofitting of storm water management infrastructure is on-going. The township of St. Clair is also undertaking improvements in wastewater infrastructure, including a pre-treatment facility, aeration tanks and blowers, ultra-violet disinfection, and dewatering facilities.
- Since 2000, the five major waste water treatment plants in Michigan have completed upgrades to their treatment facilities to improve sludge storage options, improve discharge mixing, and separate sewer systems to eliminate untreated combined sewage.
- Since 2000, the Macomb-St. Clair Advisory group has helped initiate numerous Clean Michigan Initiative and federal Clean Water Act Section 319 grants to address habitat and water quality improvement in the St. Clair River watershed.
Current projects and outlook
- In May 2005, Macomb and St. Clair Counties received a $1 million federal earmark to establish water quality monitoring for the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. A work plan for the project is currently being negotiated between U.S. EPA and contractors for Macomb and St. Clair Counties.
- 2005: MDEQ, Great Lakes Connecting Channels Data Evaluation and Trend Analysis Report (PDF 6.71Mb 446 pages)
In 1988, the St. Clair River Binational Public Advisory Council (BPAC) was formed to ensure continuous public participation in the RAP, and to advise staff from the Four Agencies working on implementation of the St. Clair River RAP. The BPAC includes representatives from various economic sectors, first nations, municipalities, and the public.
In fall 2005, a Canadian St. Clair River RAP Implementation Committee was re-established to guide implementation of the remaining remedial actions on the Canadian side of the AOC. U.S. EPA and MDEQ will informally participate in that committee as needed.