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Scientists Gauge Restoration Success in Great Lake Tributary

From July 16–20, scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science joined their counterparts from elsewhere in NOAA, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Michigan to gather zebra mussel samples from a river undergoing extensive remediation to restore its recreational, commercial, and aesthetic benefits to the community of Manistique and the resort town’s visitors.

For decades, wastes from several mills and other industries along the Manistique river contributed toxic contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oils, and heavy metals into the sediment. The EPA and the state put more than a decade’s worth of effort into cleaning the site, which will culminate it being removed from a list of  what the agency terms an “area of concern,” or AOC. To help certify their success, they enlisted NCCOS’s Mussel Watch program to sample mussels from several locations for chemical contaminant analysis.

Invasive zebra mussels inhabit nearly every corner of the Great Lakes and their tributaries. They feed by filtering water which concentrates any contaminants they consume within their tissues. Analyzing them is a low tech but highly accurate method to determine whether or not chemicals continue to pollute the river.

Other NCCOS researchers sampled and studied communities of small invertebrates that live in the sediment, which will contribute to a more complete picture of the riverbed’s health and the cleanup project’s achievements.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an interagency enterprise established to address environmental pollution hotspots in the Great Lakes, provided additional funding for this project.

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