The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed a $2.9 million agreement to remediate contaminated sediment along the Detroit River. The sediment is in the Detroit River Area of Concern (AOC), identified by the U.S. and Canada as one of 43 toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes basin. The project will allow for the expansion of the Detroit RiverWalk.
Work will be funded through a Great Lakes Legacy Act cost-sharing partnership with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, which has agreed to contribute up to 35 percent of the project cost. Construction is slated to begin this summer.
“EPA is proud to play a role in the transformation of Detroit’s riverfront through a public-private partnership under the GLRI (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative),” says Kurt Thiede, regional administrator and Great Lakes national program manager for EPA Region 5 in Chicago, which oversees environmental protection efforts in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin as well as 35 federally recognized tribal governments.
“This sediment cleanup will allow for further expansion of the Detroit Riverwalk, creating recreational space for the city while bringing the Detroit River AOC (Area of Concern) one step closer to delisting,” adds Thiede, who also is manager of EPA’s Great Lakes National Program, through which he leads restoration and protection of the largest freshwater system in the world.
The project will remediate about 13,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments located along the Detroit River just downstream of the MacArthur Bridge that leads to Belle Isle. The EPA will isolate and stabilize the contaminated sediment with a “cap” of clean material. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will cover the sediment cap with a stone rip rap, which will stabilize an aging seawall and provide geophysical support for the RiverWalk.
“This project is a significant step in realizing our vision of a connected riverfront,” says Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. “Once the sediment cap is in place, we can connect two of our most popular parks on the riverfront and create a direct link to Belle Isle.”
The project is part of the larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In October 2019, Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA, announced the GLRI Action Plan III, which is designed to guide Great Lakes restoration and protection activities by EPA and its partners over the next five years.
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