Tackling the Great Lakes’ Contaminated Sediment: A Moon Shot for the Region

Teresa Seidel Takes on the Challenge of Cleaning Up the Great Lakes’ Areas of Concern

Four weeks into her new role as the top executive of the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes office in Chicago, Teresa Seidel faces the daunting task of addressing the decades-old contaminated sediment sites in the region. These sites, known as Areas of Concern (AOCs), have plagued the Great Lakes for years, hindering the region’s progress and perpetuating its “Rust Belt” reputation. Seidel embraces the ambitious goal set by her predecessor to clean up these sites by 2030, likening it to a “moon shot.” In this article, we delve into the challenges and potential solutions that Seidel and her team will face in their mission to restore the health of the Great Lakes.

The Lingering Legacy of Contaminated Sediment

Decades of industrial activity and pollution have left a lasting mark on the Great Lakes, with numerous AOCs dotting the region. These sites, often located near industrial areas or former manufacturing sites, contain high levels of pollutants, including heavy metals and toxic chemicals. The presence of these contaminants not only poses a threat to aquatic life but also affects the drinking water supply and recreational activities in the surrounding communities.

A Comprehensive Approach to Cleanup

Seidel recognizes that cleaning up the AOCs requires a multifaceted approach. The first step is conducting thorough assessments to determine the extent of contamination and identify the most effective remediation strategies. This involves collaboration with local communities, environmental organizations, and industry stakeholders to gather data and develop targeted cleanup plans.

Innovative Technologies for Remediation

Traditional methods of sediment cleanup, such as dredging and capping, can be costly, time-consuming, and disruptive to the ecosystem. Seidel’s team is exploring innovative technologies that offer more efficient and sustainable solutions. These include sediment treatment technologies that can remove contaminants without disturbing the sediment, as well as natural recovery processes that allow the ecosystem to heal itself over time.

Engaging Local Communities and Stakeholders

Seidel understands the importance of engaging local communities and stakeholders in the cleanup efforts. Public participation and input are crucial for the success of any environmental restoration project. Seidel’s team is working closely with community organizations, tribal governments, and industry representatives to ensure that the cleanup plans address the specific needs and concerns of each affected community.

Funding Challenges and Partnerships

One of the biggest hurdles in tackling the AOC cleanup is securing adequate funding. Seidel is actively seeking partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private entities, to leverage resources and maximize the impact of the cleanup efforts. Additionally, she is advocating for increased federal funding and exploring innovative financing mechanisms to support the ambitious goal of cleaning up the AOCs by 2030.


Teresa Seidel’s appointment as the head of the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes office brings renewed hope for the restoration of the region’s contaminated sediment sites. With her vision of a “moon shot” approach and a commitment to collaboration and innovation, Seidel aims to make significant progress in cleaning up the Great Lakes’ Areas of Concern by 2030. While the challenges are immense, the potential benefits for the environment, economy, and communities in the region make this endeavor a crucial one. As Seidel and her team forge ahead, the Great Lakes have a chance to shed their Rust Belt image and emerge as a beacon of environmental resilience and restoration.

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