A River Cleanup Success Story
Posted on: July 16, 2018
Eagles are among some of the species returning to the River Raisin thanks to a successful cleanup of PCB and heavy metal contamination along with habitat restoration. These eagles were spotted at the mouth of the River Raisin during a tour sponsored by DTE Energy and Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

A case study by the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) has concluded that restoration of the River Raisin has led to Environmental and economic benefits for the City of Monroe, Michigan. The River Raisin is one of 8, out of the total of 43 Great Lakes locations, or areas of environmental concern, where cleanup work has been completed. The river is located in southeastern Michigan and flows into Lake Erie.

Read the Case Study.

The river was once known by the Potawatomi Nation as Nummaseppe “the river of lake sturgeon.” In recent years it was not recommended to consume what fish were left in the river due to severe contamination. The Monroe Metropoliton Wastewater Treatment Plant had contaminated the river water and sediment with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. Fish habitat had also been reduced because of a series of dams built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project to carry sanitary sewers across the bedrock bottom of the river. Because the dams prevented fish and other aquatic wildlife from migrating along the river, the environmental potential of the river had degraded.

Contaminated sediment remediation in the lower River Raisin. Credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

River Raisin was designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern in 1985. The River Raisin Remedial Action Plan aimed to upgrade the Monroe Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant to prevent further contamination, cleanup contaminated sediment, restore natural habitats and remove dams. All work has been completed. New and also long lost fish species have returned to the River along with Bald Eagles. The face-lift has inspired local businesses to make better use of riverfront views. New trails and gathering places that were built as part of the restoration are allowing the community to harbour a stronger connection to the river.

Restored fish habitat in the lower River Raisin in Monroe, Michigan. Credit: Melanie Foose.

John Hartig, policy adviser for IAGLR, told The Monroe News that “environmental and economic benefits that have been observed because of this cleanup provide compelling rationale to sustain cleanup efforts targeted in Areas of Concern and the entire Great Lakes.”