Waukegan River Harbor
Management actions in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern are on track to be completed such that the AOC can be delisted in 2014. The Army Corps of Engineers are dredging final portions of the harbor to remove pollutants such as PCBs and arsenic. A cap will be placed over the dredged sediment to contain any remaining contamination.
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About Waukegan Harbor
The Waukegan Area of Concern is located in Lake County, Illinois, on the west shore of Lake Michigan. There is also an expanded study area 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
- Degradation of benthos
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
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 great improved habitat and reduced sediment contamination.
- Cleanup efforts at the Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke site were completed in 2010. Groundwater was cleaner and re-injected using bioremediation technology, contaminated soil and sediments were disposed off-site, and the site will be capped when EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers complete all dredging activities.
- Soil removal activities were completed at the Waukegan Manufactured Gas and Coke site in 2005. Extraction and treatment of contaminated groundwater will continue at the site for several years.
- The Waukegan Harbor CAG received an EPA section 319 financial assistance grant in July 2005 to develop a watershed plan for the Waukegan River watershed. The grant is administered by Illinois EPA.
- In March 2003, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice selected the Waukegan Revitalization and Clean-up Plan as one of 15 new revitalization demonstration projects to showcase collaborative partnerships among federal agencies and other stakeholders in the area of community revitalization and environmental justice.
- In January 2003, a sediment-sampling event was conducted in Waukegan Harbor to help U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers determine the extent of contamination remaining in the harbor and evaluate the remediation options that may be used in addressing the remaining contaminated sediment. Additional sampling was conducted in 2004 to fill the data gaps from the January sampling.
- Several removal actions were performed by the potentially responsible parties and U.S. EPA at the Outboard Marine Corporation site during 2002 and 2003. These removal actions resulted in the removal and disposal of large amounts of acids, bases, paints, solvents, hydraulic oil, machining oil, compressed gases, metals, sludge and PCB-laden transformer fluid from this Waukegan lakefront site.
- The shipping companies that utilize Waukegan Harbor dredged Slip 1 and portions of the entrance channel to a depth of 19.5 feet in the summer of 2001.
- In May 2000, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission met with the Waukegan Harbor CAG and the public in Waukegan. The Board recognized the CAG for its long-standing commitment to the restoration and protection of beneficial uses in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern. Environmental education efforts to area students were also recognized. The Board urged quick action in removing the remaining 300,000 cubic yards of harbor sediment containing low levels of residual PCBs.
- Approximately 1 million pounds of PCBs were removed during remediation activities at the Outboard Marine Corporation site and Waukegan Harbor in 1993.
- 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 (PDF) 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