Great Lakes: Areas of Concern
Areas of Concern (AOCs) are locations within the Great Lakes identified as having experienced high levels of environmental harm.
Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States, 43 such areas were identified, 12 of which were Canadian and 5 of which were shared binationally.
The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement reaffirms both countries’ commitments to restoring water quality and ecosystem health in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
Map of Canadian and U.S. Areas of Concern
The map shows the location of 43 Areas of Concern around the Great Lakes basin - 12 are in Canada, 26 are in the United States, and 5 are shared by both countries. The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs through the middle of the lakes. The map also shows the boundary of the Great Lakes basin.
Canadian Areas of Concern on Lake Superior are: Thunder Bay, Nipigon Bay, Jackfish Bay (in recovery), and Peninsula Harbour. The St. Marys River is a binational Area of Concern shared by Canada and the United States. On Lake Huron, Canadian Areas of Concern are: Spanish Harbour (in recovery), Severn Sound (delisted) and Collingwood Harbour (delisted). The St. Clair River and the Detroit River are binational Areas of Concern shared by Canada and the United States. On Lake Erie, Wheatley Harbour is the only Area of Concern and it has been delisted. The Niagara River is a binational Area of Concern shared by Canada and the United States. On Lake Ontario, Canadian Areas of Concern are: Hamilton Harbour, Toronto and Region, Port Hope Harbour and Bay of Quinte. The St. Lawrence River is a binational Area of Concern shared by Canada and the United States.
Areas of Concern in the United States on Lake Superior are: St. Louis Bay/River, Torch Lake and Deer Lake (delisted). Areas of Concern in the United States on Lake Michigan are: Manistique River, Lower Menominee (delisted), Fox River/Southern Green Bay, Sheboygan River, Milwaukee Estuary, Waukegan Harbor, Grand Calumet River, Kalamazoo River, Muskegon Lake and White Lake (delisted). The Saginaw River and Clinton River Areas of Concern are in the United States on Lake Huron. Areas of Concern in the United States near Lake Erie are: Rouge River, River Raisin, Maumee River, Black River, Cayuhoga River, Ashtabula River (delisted), Presque Isle Bay (in recovery) and Buffalo River. Areas of Concern in the United States on Lake Ontario are: Eighteenmile Creek, Rochester Embayment and Oswego River/Harbor (delisted).
Action is needed
Cleaning up AOCs contributes to the environmental, social and economic well-being of local communities and improves water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes.
What we are doing
Since 1987, we have supported local action to clean up AOCs. This includes committing $8 million per year to support cleanup actions and an additional $48.9 million to remediate contaminated sediment in AOCs.
To date, we have completely restored three AOCs: Severn Sound, Collingwood Harbour and Wheatley Harbour. In order for a site to be considered fully restored, all remedial actions must be complete and monitoring results show that water quality and ecosystem health criteria have been met.
Another two sites – Spanish Harbour and Jackfish Bay – are designated as Areas in Recovery, which means all required remedial actions are complete and the areas need more time for the environment to fully recover.
Contaminated sediment management projects have been completed in Collingwood Harbour (delisted), Severn Sound (delisted), Detroit River and Peninsula Harbour Areas of Concern. Projects to remediate contaminated sediment are planned or are underway in Thunder Bay, St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour and Port Hope Areas of Concern.
We provide financial and scientific support for restoration projects at the community level, which have enhanced water quality, restored fish and wildlife populations and habitats, improved management of municipal wastewater, and investigated and managed contaminated sediments in AOCs. These projects have served to remediate environmental quality at the local scale, leading us ever closer to completing all required remedial actions.
How you can get involved
There are many community and municipal groups engaged in cleaning up AOCs in their area. The success of many of the projects undertaken are in large part the result of enduring partnerships at binational, national, provincial and local levels. Without the dedicated effort and commitment of all of our partners, we could not have accomplished all that we have in these areas. If you are interested in being part of these efforts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For detailed information on individual Canadian and binational AOCs, click on the appropriate link below:
- Areas of Concern
- Areas of Concern in recovery
- Areas of Concern remediated and removed from the list
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