Officials announced $450 million in funding for a Milwaukee-area remediation of 2 million cu yd of contaminated sediment near Lake Michigan. The initiative is the largest cleanup yet under a program aimed at protecting and restoring the Great Lakes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Oct. 11. 

EPA did not say when procurement would begin for the work.

The cleanup will target PCBs, petroleum compounds and heavy metals including mercury, lead and chromium in the Milwaukee Estuary "area of concern," which includes the city's inner and outer harbor and nearshore waters of western Lake Michigan plus tributaries such as lower portions of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers. 

AOC Boundary Map_Milwaukee Estuary2023.jpgThe Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern includes part of Lake Michigan and several tributaries. Map courtesy of EPTwenty-five of 31 original areas of concern on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes still carry the designation as an area of concern, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in announcing the funding, adding that remaining industrial pollution has a disproportionate impact on surrounding low-income communities and communities of color.

“The Milwaukee estuary has long been identified as one of the most polluted areas in the country,” Regan said. “Cleanup and restoration ... is essential to the health of the surrounding communities, the vitality of Lake Michigan and the strength of local economies.”

The funding agreement was made through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an EPA program targeting threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem that Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said has been “wildly successful.”

“Since its inception, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has tripled the successful cleanup efforts and delisting of areas of concern, while reducing the presence of chemicals and compounds and contaminants and restoring wildlife habitat to over 1,000 miles of rivers and waterways,” she said. 

EPA is providing $275 million via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $1 billion for area-of-concern cleanups.

More than $170 million is from nonfederal project sponsors, including Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, We Energies, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County Parks.