Data Watch: The Great Lakes’ top priorities

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A sign at the Ionia City Landfill, which one of the National Priority List sites in Ionia, Michigan. The landfill has been on the list since 1983 and was the site of a waste explosion in the mid-60s, which ended up killing a waste hauler. Photo: Becky McKendry.

A sign at the Ionia City Landfill, one of the National Priority List sites in Ionia, Michigan. The landfill has been on the list since 1983 and was the site of a waste explosion in the mid-60s, which killed a waste hauler. The site was also used as a baseball facility in the 80s until exposed drums of chemicals were noticed and the field was torn down. Photo: Becky McKendry.

Nationwide, there are 1,320 final sites on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List of waste sites that have released or can release hazardous contaminants.

They are either awaiting or undergoing cleanup. Sites can be deleted from the list when “no further response is required to protect human health or the environment,” according to the EPA.

Each site is scored through the Hazard Ranking System on a scale from 0-100. The higher the score, the greater threat they represent. Scores are based on the likelihood of the site releasing dangerous substances, the amount and toxicity of pollutants and what the environment is like, such as how many people could be affected. However, scores do not wholly reflect the severity or priority of a site, according to the EPA.

Almost a third of these nationwide sites (426) are in the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

  • The average score of a site in the Great Lakes region is 41.77.
  • The longest-listed sites are approaching their 30th anniversary. There are 112 Great Lakes region sites that were entered onto the National Priorities List on Sept. 8, 1983 and have yet to be deleted.

The five sites with the highest scores in the Great Lakes region:

  1. DePue/New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Corp. in DePue, Illinois (70.71)
  2. Safety Light Corporation in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania (70.71)
  3. Watson Johnson Landfill in Richland Township, Pennsylvania (70.71)
  4. Lammers Barrel in Beavercreek, Ohio (69.33)
  5. FMC Corp. (Fridley Plant) in Fridley, Minnesota (65.5)

*Data was analyzed using information from the last EPA update of May 24, 2013.

One thought on “Data Watch: The Great Lakes’ top priorities

  1. Just wondering – what should a Great Lakes audience learn from reading an article that lists the top five sites in Great Lakes states if none of the sites are actually in the Great Lakes watershed? It seems unlikely that these sites will impact the Great Lakes or waters draining to the Great Lakes. Consider re-analyzing for the top five or ten or twenty sites that are actually in the Great Lakes watershed. That would be pretty interesting!

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