St. Louis River Area of Concern resources

Agencies and stakeholders are working together to clean up contaminated sediments and restore aquatic habitat to the estuary in the St. Louis River Area of Concern within the Great Lakes Basin. What's an AOC? Take a look:

Sign up for St. Louis River Area of Concern email or text updates from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Enter and confirm your email address to subscribe and to access your subscriber preferences. This shared sign-up page is managed by Minnesota DNR.

Learn more about proposals to clean up sediments in several of Duluth Harbor's slips on the St. Louis River Area of Concern sediment cleanup sites webpage.

The St. Louis River Area of Concern (AOC) is one of 43 AOCs across the Great Lakes under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1987. AOCs represent the most severely impacted areas around the Great Lakes Basin and are required to develop remedial action plans (RAP) to address their specific beneficial use impairments. The RAP process incorporates a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach that includes substantial stakeholder participation. RAP documents have defined the problem (1992 Stage I RAP), developed a large list of remedial and regulatory measures to consider for remediation and restoration of the area (1995 Stage II RAP), and have shown much progress (RAP Progress 2001, 2011, 2012) along they way.

Today, through the hard work of partners and stakeholders in the St. Louis River estuary, there exists the most well-defined list of action items, cost estimates, and a timeline for removing BUIs and ultimately delisting the AOC by 2025 (2013 RAP Update). The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are the regulatory agencies designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address this AOC. This is an exciting time for the AOC partners to implement projects that will remediate contaminated sediments and restore aquatic habitat as funding is available through the U. S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Minnesota’s Clean Water and Outdoor Heritage Funds.

To learn more about how science, ecosystems, and humans interact in the St Louis River Estuary from the people who live and work there, visit this website: The St Louis River Estuary: the Stories and the Science.

Beneficial use impairments (BUIs)

Impairment of a beneficial use: a change in the chemical, physical or biological integrity of the Great Lakes system sufficient to cause any of the 14 use impairments, or other related uses, such as the microbial objective for waters used for body contact recreational activities.

Historical reports

  • Delisting Targets 2011
  • Progress Reports (2001, 2011, 2012)
  • Stage II RAP 1995
  • Stage I RAP 1992
  • RAP CAC 1989
  • RAP organized 1988
  • 1987 added to the U.S. EPA’s Area of Concern list


Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Barbara Huberty, St. Louis River AOC Coordinator

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Melissa Sjolund, St. Louis River AOC Coordinator

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Matt Steiger, St. Louis River AOC Coordinator

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in MN
Rick Gitar, Water Regulatory Specialist
Fond du Lac Resource Management

Federal agency support

U.S. Environment Protection Agency (Region 5)
Great Lakes National Protection Office
Chicago, IL

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Twin Cities Ecological Services Field Office
Bloomington, MN

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office
Ashland, WI

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Detroit District
Detroit, MI 48226

National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration
NOAA Restoration Center, Great Lakes Region
Oak Harbor, OH


  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • St. Louis River Alliance
  • Harbor Technical Advisory Committee
  • Port Authority
  • Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council
  • U.S. EPA Mid-Continent Ecology Division
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Detroit District
  • City of Duluth, Minnesota
  • City of Superior, Wisconsin
  • Western Lake Superior Sanitary District
  • Douglas County, Wisconsin
  • Douglas County Health Department
  • Minnesota Department of Health
  • Minnesota Land Trust
  • West Wisconsin Land Trust
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • University of Minnesota-Duluth
  • University of Wisconsin-Superior
  • University of Wisconsin-Superior Extension
  • University of Minnesota Natural Resources Research Institute
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture


Data system and sediment characterization

A data system for the St. Louis River Area of Concern is being designed to hold various data sets (e.g., sediment characterization, macroinvertebrate sampling, restoration project objectives) associated with the AOC. This is a multi-state and multi-agency partnership, so the data system will provide easy access to the public and options to provide output summary information in various formats.

Select data sets are currently available and a web-based interface is scheduled for public access by January 2014. Contact Dan Breneman with data system questions.

The St. Louis River Sediment Characterization Project evaluated and summarized sediment contaminant concentrations throughout the AOC, based on sediment coring data collected in 2008-2010.

PDF icon St. Louis River Area of Concern Sediment Characterization Final Report

This work supported the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources decisions to investigate remedial needs for sites across the AOC to support BUI removal strategies. Sediment characterization summaries are based solely on contaminant data, and therefore, only one of many evaluation tools used by the state’s remedial programs to conduct site-specific investigations.

The work products developed were:

  • Sediment Assessment Area chemistry characterization (dashboards) (insert jpeg of a sample dashboard)
  • Maps of sediment contaminants for multiple depth intervals
  • Database queries to assist in conducting independent analysis of the sediment contaminant levels in the AOC
  • Memorandum describing a systematic approach for assigning contaminant-level categories to each assessment area

Sediment characterization data and maps will be available via the Data System in 2014. Contact Dan Breneman for more information.

Sediment Studies: St. Louis River Area of Concern webpage provides the reports of sediment characterization data collection, earlier phases of the sediment characterization databases, and reports associated with remediation work at Minnesota Slip and Slip C and the Superfund sites at Interlake/Duluth Tar and U.S. Steel Superfund sites.