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Lincoln Park and Milwaukee River Channels sediment projects

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park and Milwaukee River Channels

Lincoln Park map

Studies of the sediment deposits and transport within the Milwaukee River system from 1993 to 2003 identified significant deposits of PCBs within the Estabrook impoundment. Based on the studies, DNR determined three priority areas for addressing the sediments within the impoundment. The priority areas are:

  1. Blatz Pavillon;
  2. Lincoln Park/Milwaukee River channels (Phase I); and
  3. Lincoln Park/Milwaukee River channels (Phase II).

The Blatz Pavilion cleanup was completed in 2008. The DNR and Milwaukee County have been working with the US EPA Great Lakes National Program Office Legacy Act Program to clean up contaminated sediments and restore streambanks in Lincoln Park Phase I area (in blue). The phase II area (green) is currently under study by the Legacy Act program.

Blatz Pavilion

Blatz Pavilion Lagoon Sediment Remediation Project

Lincoln Park

Many areas in the Great Lakes Basin have sediments polluted with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Though PCBs were once used as common coolants and insulating fluids, their production was banned in the 1970s due to their toxicity. The toxicity of PCBs to animals was first noticed nationally in the 1970s when emaciated seabird corpses with very high PCB body burdens washed up on beaches. We now know that locally caught freshwater fish and shellfish are also contaminated with PCBs, and human consumption is restricted.

Blatz Pavilion Lagoon Selected As First Phase Of Lincoln Park Cleanup

Wisconsin has set a goal of restoring all contaminated sediment sites in the state by 2020. An important step toward meeting this goal was accomplished with the completion of the Blatz Pavilion Lagoon sediment remediation project in Milwaukee. The purpose of the project was to remove the PCB-contaminated sediment from a lagoon on the Milwaukee River in Lincoln Park.

The Blatz cleanup was the first phase in the DNR's effort to restore the Milwaukee River at Lincoln Park. The Blatz site was selected by the DNR, Milwaukee County and local residents for the first phase of the cleanup because the lagoon is the location of the popular Blatz Pavilion Community Center, which brought park visitors in close proximity to the contaminated sediment.

PCBs in the Blatz Lagoon

The PCBs in the Blatz lagoon were a:

  • risk to people wading and splashing in this urban recreational area;
  • source of PCBs to the fish in the Milwaukee River Area of Concern (AOC); and
  • source of PCBs to Lake Michigan.

The origin of the PCBs are not known, and were likely transported to the river over 40 years ago, prior to the federal ban on the use of PCBs.

Restoration work removes PCBs in Lincoln Park, Milwaukee

The efforts of the many individuals involved in the project allowed the state to eliminate this source of PCBs within the watershed. Approximately 300 pounds of PCBs were removed from the lagoon area. Nearly 4,000 cubic yards of sediment, with PCB concentrations as high as 800 parts per million, were removed from the lagoon and safely disposed of in landfills. United States Environmental Protection Agency staff, Milwaukee County staff, the oversight consultant (Natural Resource Technology), the contractor (Veolia Environmental Services) and DNR staff all played cooperating roles in the restoration effort. Follow-up sampling in March 2009 showed very low (0.01 mg/kg) to undetectable levels of PCBs within the Blatz Pavilion area.


Phase I

Remediation and Habitat Restoration (Phase I)

Lincoln Park map

The Lincoln Park/Milwaukee River Channels Phase I area includes Lincoln Creek and the west oxbow of the Milwaukee River (shown in blue on map). This area contains significant sediment deposits contaminated with industrial PCBs. The Lincoln Park/Milwaukee River channels Phase I area contains the most significant deposits of PCBs known within the Milwaukee River system. The source of the PCBs has not been specifically identified or linked to a particular industry. However, the majority of contaminants within the impoundment are within the area influenced by Lincoln Creek, which has a long industrial history. One study concluded that the Milwaukee River above the impoundment was not considered to be a significant source of contamination (Baird & Associates, 1997).

This area is located within the Estabrook Impoundment, within the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern, and is primarily adjacent to Milwaukee County Park land. Previous studies estimate that this impoundment holds over 100,000 cubic yards of sediment containing over 5,000 kg of PCBs (DNR, 2005). The Milwaukee River Mass Balance Project (Baird & Associates, 1997) estimated that remediation of these deposits will result in a long-term reduction of PCB mass transport of over 70 percent.

As part of the process for qualifying for Great Lakes Legacy Act funding, the DNR must show that upstream sources of PCBs to the project area are identified and controlled. We are currently in the process of identifying potential sources and potential responsible parties. Preliminary information collected does not point to a specific source or parties, but rather a long history of industrial activity within the Lincoln Creek drainage that cannot be attributed to any particular source.


Phase II

Remediation and Habitat Restoration (Phase II)

Lincoln Park map

This area includes the east oxbow of the Milwaukee River and the main stem of the Milwaukee River from oxbows downstream to the Estabrook Park Dam (areas shaded in green). The east oxbow area is not known to contain significant deposits of PCB-contaminated sediments. The Milwaukee River downstream from the oxbows has some discrete deposits containing PCBs over a 1–mile stretch of river. Additionally, the fixed crest spillway contains several feet of sediment co-mingled with woody debris. Limited sampling within the spillway indicates PCBs at the surface with concentrations of about 40 mg/kg.

The EPA is characterizing the sediments in the Phase II area under the Great Lakes Legacy Act. This sampling was completely funded by EPA and took place over the winter/spring of 2010. Sample results are in the remedial investigation report.


Blatz Pavilion Photo Gallery

Blatz Lagoon Cleanup

Early in the project with the Milwaukee River lowered. Note the exposed mudflat with PCB contaminated sediment targeted for removal. Excavator is building an access road for heavy equipment.

Blatz Lagoon Cleanup

An excavator is carefully scraping targeted layer for special handling and disposal. Note the surveyors positioning the bucket and verifying removal. Removal cells are marked with paint by survey stakes.

Blatz Lagoon Cleanup

Excavator Loading trucks with PCB contaminated sediment for off–site disposal. Note the excavation cells, access road, and clean gravel backfill.

Blatz Lagoon Cleanup

All of the PCB contaminated sediment has been removed, a clean sand layer is being placed over the gravel fill to restore the contours of the lagoon and provide a clean bottom.

Blatz Lagoon Cleanup

Water Treatment system to clean any water that has been in contact with the sediment during construction.

Blatz Lagoon Cleanup

Blatz Lagoon after the cleanup. Note that the access road and heavy equipment has been removed and the park lawn restored.