Waukegan River Harbor
Cleanup and restoration actions necessary to address the remaining Beneficial Use Impairments (BUI) in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern (AOC) were completed in 2013. Of the six BUIs that were originally present, three remain. USEPA will support monitoring and evaluation to determine when environmental conditions have been restored such that the AOC can be delisted.
About Waukegan Harbor
The Waukegan Area of Concern is located in Lake County, Ill., on the west shore of Lake Michigan. There is also an Expanded Study Area (ESA) bounded by Dead River on the north; a bluff line which parallels Sheridan Road on the west; the southern boundary of the former U.S. Steel Property on the south; and the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan on the east. The ESA was added to explore additional concerns of the citizens beyond the AOC.
A natural inlet and portions of adjacent wetlands were filled to form the present shape of the harbor. Waukegan Harbor consists of approximately 1.2 square kilometers of industrial, commercial, municipal and open/vacant lands. The watershed of the Waukegan ESA contains the mouth of the Waukegan River, the North Ditch drainage basin and other nearshore areas which drain to Lake Michigan.
In 1975, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered in Waukegan Harbor sediments. Bioaccumulation of PCBs found in the heavily contaminated harbor sediments lead to contamination of fish that resided in Waukegan Harbor.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Beach closings - removed September 2011
- Degradation of benthos
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
- Restriction on dredging activities - removed July 2014
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat - removed August 2013
Efforts toward restoration
The first stage of the Waukegan Harbor RAP, detailing the use impairments and a definition of the problems, was completed in 1993, following extensive review and comment by the Citizens Advisory Group and an interagency workgroup. Several successful remedial actions have followed that have greatly improved habitat and reduced sediment contamination.
- 1981-2013: Natural expansion of shoreline upstream of the Waukegan Harbor break wall created additional, valuable dune and swale habitat within the AOC. Local, state, and federal agencies coordinated to protect and restore this rare habitat, which led to removal of the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat BUI.
- 1990-2002: City of Waukegan worked with state agencies to identify and eliminate sanitary discharges to storm sewers.
- 1990-2004: City of Waukegan improved the management of beaches (e.g., trash pickup and disposal, covered trash cans, etc.) which reduced fouling of beaches by gulls, which led to the removal of the Beach Closings BUI.
- 1992-1993: Approximately 1 million pounds of PCBs were removed during remediation activities at the Outboard Marine Corporation site and Waukegan Harbor. This included the removal of 32,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the Waukegan Harbor AOC as part of a Superfund cleanup project. This contributed to the removal of the Restriction on Dredging Activities BUI.
- 2010: $1.4 million GLRI Habitat grant was implemented by Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group to restore and protect new dune and swale habitat.
- 2012-2013: U.S. EPA Superfund dredging project. 124,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment were removed from Waukegan Harbor, which contributed to the removal of the Restriction on Dredging Activities BUI.
- 2013: U.S. EPA strategic navigation dredging project removed an additional 10,000 cubic yards of sediments from within the navigation channel, which contributed to the removal of the Restriction on Dredging Activities BUI.
- Final Summary Report for Benthos and Plankton Within Waukegan AOC (PDF) (180 pp, 11.4MB) January 2013
- Draft Summary Report for Fish Sampling in Waukegan Harbor AOC (PDF) (75 pp, 8.1 MB) January 2013
- Waukegan Environmental Justice Revitalization Project January 2007
- Evaluation of the Toxicity and Bioaccumulation of Contaminants in Sediments from Waukegan Harbor October 1999
Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group was organized in 1990 to act as a local advisory group to the IEPA to address environmental concerns in the AOC. The CAG is comprised of members from industry, fishing interests, environmental interests and residents. The Waukegan CAG has been instrumental in obtaining cooperation from local parties involving additional investigations. Groundwater monitoring from local parties is being conducted in an area south of the harbor. The CAG helped obtain access from private businesses and federal grant money to install the monitoring wells.
Public participation and the cooperation of state, federal and local agencies are an integral part of the RAP process. The development of the Waukegan Harbor RAP has been a cooperative effort including input from representatives from business, government, industry, environmental groups, education, recreation and local citizens.
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources
- Illinois Lakes Management Association
- Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District