Deer Lake cleanup well worth years of effort

It was certainly good news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brought to Ishpeming last week when we learned an area lake may finally be cleaned up.

The body of water in question is Deer Lake north of town, which has been listed as one of 43 areas of concern in the Great Lakes region for many years. Mercury pollution in the lake is why it was included as a contaminated site under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

Over the years there have been several remediation projects undertaken at the lake, including draining the basin several years ago, to try and eliminate the mercury.

These efforts worked to varying degrees, but now the latest project looks like it may produce the results needed to remove the site from the list of areas of concern.

The diverting of Partridge Creek from abandoned mines under the city of Ishpeming, where it is believed mercury was leaching into the water, has reduced the mercury load going into Deer Lake significantly.

With a corresponding drop in mercury found in the lake and the fish it is home to, the EPA is starting the process of delisting the lake. Next would be the removal of fish consumption restrictions, which have been in place since the lake was listed as contaminated.

This would be welcomed by anglers who enjoy not only Deer Lake’s proximity to town, but also its good populations of such warm-water game fish as walleye and northern pike.

If the lake is removed from the list sometime next year, as EPA officials hope it will be, it would be the first site on or near Lake Superior delisted and only the third in the whole Great Lakes system.

While the EPA is the lead agency in the delisting process because of the water agreement between the U.S. and Canada, there were many other important players in the effort to clean up the lake.

These partners include local officials, state agencies, U.S. senators and representatives and the Deer Lake Public Advisory Committee, all of which put in years of work to secure funding and carry out projects.

It may have been a slow process to get Deer Lake cleaned up, but with the process appearing to be wrapping up, the victory will be well worth the effort.