Great Lakes Restoration Initiative cost center

Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern

Although many sources of contamination have been reduced, legacy contamination remains in the Great Lakes area. It includes contaminants largely left over from past practices but that continue to recirculate through the environment. Contaminants of emerging concern such as, pharmaceuticals, have been detected in the Great Lakes in recent years and also pose potential but unknown threats to ecosystems. Efforts to clean up toxic substances are underway in 30 U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern as part of GLRI. USGS is working with others to improve the health of the Great Lakes fisheries by enhancing fish habitat for the Huron Erie corridor; identifying the types and locations of legacy contaminants and contaminants of emerging concern in major tributaries to the Great Lakes; examining mercury processes including how mercury enters the food chain, how it affects the fish, and public health; using birds as indicators of contaminant exposure in the Great Lakes; and supporting restoration of beneficial uses in Areas of Concern by measuring the conditions of plankton and organisms that live on the lake/river bottom. 

Utilizing Tree Swallows as Indicators for Contaminants in the Great Lakes Area: Story Map

Filter Total Items: 13
Date published: March 25, 2020
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Development of St. Louis River AOC Remedial Targets for Mercury

The St. Louis River Area of Concern (SLRAOC) was designated in 1987 owing to the presence of a variety of legacy pollutants, including mercury. Elevated fish-mercury levels lead fish consumption advisories by both Minnesota and Wisconsin, which resulted in Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs).

Date published: March 25, 2020
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Effects of Contaminants of Emerging Concern on Avian Biota in the Great Lakes

The objectives of this work are to evaluate whether there is compelling evidence that Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) are eliciting adverse effects in Great Lakes fish and wildlife.  A second objective is to develop efficient strategies and develop endpoints to survey for, and monitor threats, that CECs may pose before those threats become large scale impacts on Great Lakes ecosystems...

Date published: November 21, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: 18 Mile Creek AOC - Fish Community Characterizations

The downstream-most section of Eighteen Mile Creek (also listed as the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) superfund site EIGHTEENMILE CREEK LOCKPORT, NY), a tributary to the south shore of Lake Ontario in New York, was designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) because water quality and bed sediments were contaminated by past industrial and municipal discharges, waste disposal, and...

Contacts: Scott George
Date published: November 20, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: New York Statewide Fish Collection - Contaminants in fish from the Buffalo River AOC

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Department of Health (NYSDOH), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) sampled fish from the Buffalo River AOC during summer 2017 to help determine if current fish-consumption advisories are appropriate and if residue data support or do not support removal of the “Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption” beneficial...

Contacts: Barry P Baldigo
Date published: November 18, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Coordinated Support and Evaluation of the Maumee AOC

USGS scientists help support habitat assessment and restoration in the Maumee area of concern (AOC) to determine the extent to which beneficial uses are impaired and the types of management actions required to remediate and delist the AOC.

Date published: November 13, 2019
Status: Active

Toxic Substances: Evaluation of Contaminants and their Potential Biological Effects in Great Lakes Tributaries

The objective of this project is to Identify emerging contaminants and assess impacts on Great Lakes fish and wildlife.

Contacts: Steven R Corsi
Date published: November 12, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Niagara River

USGS scientists participated in several projects supporting work in the Niagara River Area of Concern including: 1) Evaluating toxicity in Benthos Sediment, 2) Tracking PCB Sources in the AOC, and Identifying Source Areas Contributing to Contaminants Found in Fish Tissue. 

Date published: November 6, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Benthos Toxicity at Wisconsin's AOCs

USGS is assessing sediment toxicity at Wisconsin's Sheboygan River and Milwaukee Estuary areas of concern (AOCs) on Lake Michigan. The study will assess if sediment toxicity from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), selected metals, ammonia, or low dissolved oxygen is present at either acutely toxic or chronically toxic concentrations. Sediment toxicity...

Date published: October 30, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) Source Tracking in Milwaukee River

Project objectives are to identify potential Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) sources and quantify PAH loading to the Kinnickinnic River Great Lakes Legacy Act (KKGLLA) Estuary from 2009 through 2014.

Date published: October 28, 2019
Status: Active

Areas of Concern: Technical Guidance for Assessing Remedy Effectiveness, Restoration, and Revitalization at Great Lakes AOCs and Great Lake Legacy Act (GLLA) Sites

Technical Guidance for Assessing Remedy Effectiveness, Restoration, and Revitalization at Great Lakes AOCs and Great Lake Legacy Act (GLLA) Sites

Date published: October 20, 2017
Status: Active

Areas of Concern (AOC)

Under GLRI Action Plan II, federal agencies and their partners will continue to remediate and restore Areas of Concern. Federal agencies will implement critical management actions in all of the remaining AOCs and will complete all management actions required to delist the following ten: Buffalo River, Clinton River, Grand Calumet River, Manistique River, Menominee River, Muskegon Lake, River...

Contacts: Jon Hortness
Date published: October 20, 2017
Status: Active

Toxic Substances

The USGS, federal agencies, and their partners will continue to further evaluate emerging contaminants that have the greatest potential to adversely impact Great Lakes fish and wildlife – impacts which may also result in ecological, economic and recreational consequences. Federal agencies will assess the extent to which identified risks may impede environmental quality and resource management...

Contacts: Jon Hortness