Nestled not too far off the beaten path in Ishpeming, Mich. is an inland lake that features beautiful views and outstanding fishing. And as of 2014, it is no longer on the USEPA's Areas of Concern list.
Deer Lake didn't have a choice when it came to the contaminants that turned it into an Area of Concern (AOC) by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Mercury levels were off the charts, and wastewater discharge didn't help.
Partridge Creek, which feeds into Carp Creek and ultimately Deer Lake, had been rerouted underneath the city of Ishpeming, located to the south, where it flowed through old mine shafts. It was there that toxic mercury was lifted into the water, transported into Carp Creek and ultimately deposited in Deer Lake. Other sources of mercury to the lake included dumping of mercury-laden chemicals down drains, as well as a gold mine to the north of the lake.
But efforts from the area's residents, the MDEQ, the Department of Natural Resources and others helped restore the lake. A new wastewater treatment plant was built. The creek was rerouted again to avoid the mines and city drainage.
Suddenly, eagles were spotted in the area again. Swimming in the lake didn't seem like such a bad idea. It was OK to bring your family out for a day on the water.
Deer Lake began thriving.
With the area officially delisted in 2014, Deer Lake and the area around it are a prime example of how DEQ, the citizens advisory councils and the local governments can work together to help restore Michigan's waterways.
Sam Eggleston is a freelance writer and editor based in the Upper Peninsula.
This series about restoration in Michigan's Areas of Concern is made possible through support from the Michigan Office of Great Lakes through Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.