The Department of Environmental Quality held a press conference Friday announcing some good news for the City of Ishpeming. The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the city a large financial grant to clean up Deer Lake.
Six million dollars has been awarded to the City of Ishpeming from the EPA. The money will be used to clean up Deer Lake as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Partridge Creek has been contaminating the lake with mercury for decades.
"Partridge Creek is running through some abandoned mine shafts underneath the City of Ishpeming where it's picking up mercury from blasting caps that were used in mining many years ago," said Susan Hedman, Great Lakes National Program Manager.
The EPA also awarded a $2 million grant in 2010 to get the cleanup started. Ishpeming is already working on phase one, the first half of the restoration project. The goal is to divert the flow of Partridge Creek under the city so that it will no longer carry mercury from the mine shafts. Phase one is scheduled to be completed this fall, and phase two will also begin this year, but it will be quite a while until Deer Lake is fully restored. It won't be until later in 2013 that the creek will be diverted and the lake will begin to decontaminate.
"In the long run, the area of concern will be able to be delisted, and we hope that at some point Michigan will be able to lift the fish consumption advisories for Deer Lake," Hedman said.
For Ishpeming Mayor Pat Scanlon, this means a return to happier times with Deer Lake. Since it had become contaminated, Deer Lake has been strictly a catch and release lake.
"Partridge Creek, when all the people my age were kids, it was a community event. You could fish then, you could throw suckers and trout. It was just part of growing up, so it's nice to see that it's going to come back, and future generations will be able to fish again, hopefully," said Mayor Scanlon.