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Great Lakes Article:

EPA upgrades Presque Isle Bay's recovery
John Bartlett
Erie Times

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the health of Presque Isle Bay is greatly improved and can be considered in a recovery stage.

On Thursday, the EPA officially upgraded the bay to an "area of concern in a recovery stage" from the previous designation as an "area of concern."

The International Joint Commission, the joint U.S.-Canadian body that oversees management of the Great Lakes, listed Presque Isle Bay as an area of concern in 1991.

Presque Isle Bay's designation came as a result of a petition from Erie area residents in 1988. The designation meant the bay was so polluted it required attention.

The redesignation as an area of concern in a recovery stage — commonly referred to as an area of recovery — recognizes the improvements in the bay's health, EPA Region 3 Administrator Donald Welsh said in a prepared statement.

"It is with pleasure that we approve this redesignation, which demonstrates the environmental commitment from multiple partners to restore the health of Presque Isle Bay," Welsh said.

The Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee, the group charged with helping oversee the cleanup of the bay, voted in April to seek recovery stage status.

The state Department of Environmental Protection endorsed the committee position.

On Oct. 1 in ceremonies aboard the Victorian Princess on Presque Isle Bay, DEP Secretary David Hess officially requested that EPA redesignate the bay as in a recovery stage.

Presque Isle Bay becomes the first area of concern to achieve recovery designation — a new designation accepted by the EPA to show improvement and considered a major first step toward eventual de-listing.

"I think we are all gratified in the progress we've made with Presque Isle Bay that has been documented and recognized by EPA," said Gannon University Professor Rick Diz, the immediate past chairman of the Presque Isle Bay Public Advisory Committee.

However, Diz said the bay's new status does not mean nothing more needs to be done or can be done.

"The redesignation does not mean that we can or should let up in any way with our efforts to improve the environmental quality of the area," he said. "No one should be fooled into thinking that Erie no longer has any concerns about its environmental quality, but we should be proud of the progress that has been made."

EPA's requirements for the redesignation include a pollution prevention plan and a monitoring program to reduce risk of future degradation and ensure the recovery continues.

To date, only one of the 43 areas of concern designated by the International Joint Commission — Collingwood Harbour in Ontario — has been delisted.
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