Milwaukee's Kinnickinnic River Gets a $22 Million Cleanup

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:17 PM EDT
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Milwaukee's Kinnickinnic River Gets a $22 Million Cleanup

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, August 25, 2008 (ENS) - Federal government and Wisconsin state funds will be pooled to underwrite a $22 million project that will clean up contaminated sediment in the Kinnickinnic River that runs through Milwaukee.

The river will be cleaned up using $14.3 million from the Great Lakes Legacy Act fund and $7.7 million from the state of Wisconsin.

Sometimes called Milwaukee's forgotten river, it is the smallest of three primary rivers that flow into Milwaukee Harbor, yet is the most urbanized and densely populated.

The project area, part of the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern, is a 2,000-foot long and 200-foot wide section located between KK Avenue, the downstream limit, and Becher Street, the upstream limit.

The immediate area draining to the Milwaukee Estuary AOC encompasses about 2.6 percent of the Milwaukee River Basin, including lands that drain directly to the AOC through storm sewers and combined sewer systems.

The Area of Concern acts as both a source of pollution to Lake Michigan and as a sink for pollutants generated throughout the watershed, so water quality is affected by pollution sources associated with land use from the entire Milwaukee River drainage basin.

The project calls for the removal of about 170,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. The removal will be conducted between Becher Street and Kinnickinnic Avenue on the south side of Milwaukee.

The project will result in the removal of about 1,200 pounds of PCBs and 13,000 pounds of PAHs, according to the EPA.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act was enacted in 2002 as a tool to accelerate the pace of sediment remediation within the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. One of the goals of the law is to help restore beneficial uses to polluted sections in the Great Lakes AOCs. Beneficial use impairments include restrictions on dredging, loss of fish and wildlife habitat and activities such as fishing and boating.

"The Legacy Act is crucial to the restoration of the national treasure that we have right here on our doorstep - the Great Lakes," said newly appointed U.S. EPA Region 5 Regional Administrator Lynn Buhl, announcing the project's funding arrangements.

She was joined in Milwaukee by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

"Once it's completed, the Kinnickinnic River Legacy Act cleanup will contribute significantly to the ultimate goal of getting the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern off the list of contaminated sites around the Great Lakes," Buhl said.

The U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement identified contaminated sediment as a major obstacle to restoring beneficial uses in the AOCs.

Kinnickinnic River sediment removal is expected to be completed in three phases:

  • Fall 2008 – construction of a special cell for Kinnickinnic River sediment within the existing Milwaukee Area Confined Disposal Facility
  • Fall 2008 – construction of shoreline stabilization features within the project area
  • Early spring to late fall 2009 – sediment removal and disposal
In 2004, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with the assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a pre-engineering design for the deepening and restoration of the Kinnickinnic River within the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern.

Eleven project alternatives, including no action and five dredging alternatives combined with two disposal options were evaluated. The selected alternative calls for dredging up to170,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments, approximately 90 percent of PCB mass in the project area, and creating an 80 foot navigational channel up to 24 feet deep.

The dredged sediment will be disposed on the Jones Island Confined Disposal Facility operated by the Army Corps.

The Kinnickinnic River watershed covers 25 square miles of perennial streams, which along with the main river, have been modified through concrete channeling. High levels of industrial pollutants, diminished access for public use, and lack of a vegetative buffer means that many residents perceive the waterways as a network of municipal sewage drainage creeks.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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