The GLRI Action Plan III’s first focus area is cleanup of toxic substances and Areas of Concern (AOCs). Significant progress has been made in reducing point sources of pollution and concentrations of several persistent toxic substances. Unfortunately, challenges still remain. Pollutants largely left over from past practices, referred to as “legacy contamination,” continue to circulate through the ecosystem and warrant fish consumption advisories in the Great Lakes. Mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) fall into this category. In addition, chemicals of emerging concern, such as pharmaceuticals and flame retardants, are now being detected in Great Lakes waters and require immediate attention.
AOCs are another major challenge targeted in both this focus area and in Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration. Past legislation has stipulated funds to restore degraded conditions in the 30 U.S. Great Lakes AOCs, but it has not been enough to fully repair longstanding problems, including an estimated 43 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment. The GLRI is providing much-needed resources to address these issues and delist remaining AOCs.
Read on to learn about NOAA’s contributions to this GLRI Focus Area:
Habitat restoration in Areas of Concern
With the support of the GLRI, NOAA’s Restoration Center has been able to support multiple projects in Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) that improve fish and wildlife habitat and populations. NOAA’s Restoration Center provides expertise to inform restoration planning, design, and implementation.
Mussel Watch expansion
The Mussel Watch Program began monitoring the Great Lakes in 1992 and has amassed one of the most comprehensive chemical contaminant databases for biota, sediment, and passive water samplers including legacy, emerging and Chemicals of Mutual Concern.
See also: Toxics: Completed projects