U.S. EPA Removes ‘Degradation of Aesthetics’ Impairment Designation from Maumee Area of Concern

(Via Ohio Lake Erie Commission) Conditions in the Maumee Area of Concern (AOC), one of the largest AOCs in the eight Great Lakes states, have vastly improved over the last 30 years, bringing the Maumee AOC one step closer to full restoration. These improved conditions are a result of reducing sources of oil, grease, and trash through cleanups of contaminated streams. U.S. EPA will remove the “Degradation of Aesthetics” Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI), referring to the appearance or odor of a body of water, which can have significant effects on local communities.

The removal of this BUI was requested by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) earlier this year. BUIs identify specific problems that can prevent a body of water from meeting its water quality conditions.

“We are pleased U.S. EPA has declared another beneficial use impairment can be removed from the Maumee AOC,” said Mike Pniewski, Maumee AOC Advisory Committee chair. “The removal is the result of the significant teamwork of project partners, restoration advocates, local governments, Ohio EPA, and U.S. EPA. We look forward to the continued work from all our stakeholders in the future delisting of the Maumee AOC.”

“It’s exciting to see the State of Ohio and the local AOC partners making progress to address the historic pollution in the Maumee River watershed. All communities deserve clean and safe water,” said Joy Mulinex, Executive Director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. “Thanks to continuing support from the U.S. EPA, we will continue to undertake restoration projects to move closer to delisting the Maumee River as an Area of Concern.”

In 1990, the Maumee AOC Advisory Committee identified 10 BUIs that needed to be addressed. With the removal of the aesthetics impairment, now three BUI’s have been addressed including “added costs to agriculture or industry,” and “restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption” BUIs. These beneficial use impairments have been removed because of restoration goals being met across the 787 square mile AOC which includes several watersheds draining to Lake Erie.

In May 2023, OLEC and Ohio EPA invited public comments as part of the removal recommendation process. A response to the public comments is provided in the final BUI removal recommendation along with a letter of support by the Maumee AOC Advisory Committee. OLEC and Ohio EPA will continue to work toward the removal of the remaining BUIs with local AOC partners. As each BUI removal goal is met, OLEC, in partnership with Ohio EPA, will notify the community to seek public input and submit additional BUI removal recommendations to U.S. EPA.

Photo Credit: Bryce Blair Jr, via Removal Recommendation for Degradation of Aesthetics Beneficial Use Impairment in the Maumee AOC