2023 Updates from the Maumee Area of Concern

EducationEarlier this year, the Maumee AOC achieved a major milestone: BUI 11, Degradation of Aesthetics, was removed! We’re offering a refresher on what we do as facilitating organization, what this removal means, and why it matters.

The Maumee AOC Advisory Committee (MAAC) works for fishable, swimmable, and drinkable waters within the Maumee AOC through restoration projects, public education, collaboration with partners, and volunteer opportunities through its facilitating organization, Partners for Clean Streams. Part of our job is to report out on restoration project progress and major milestones in our AOC, like BUI removal! (For the full story of the Maumee AOC’s origins, check out About Our AOC.)

The Maumee Area of Concern (AOC) covers 787 square miles in the greater Toledo area of Northwest Ohio. There’s more to the Maumee AOC than just the lower Maumee River. Six different watersheds make up the AOC, plus part of Maumee Bay. These watersheds include over 1900 miles of streams and 45 miles of Lake Erie shoreline.

The Maumee AOC was given a report card of beneficial use impairments (BUIs): ways of measuring environmental damage. Some example BUIs include “Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption,” “Beach Closings” or “Degradation of Aesthetics.” Once restoration criteria are met, a BUI can be removed. And once all BUIs are removed from an AOC, it can be delisted – the end goal of all AOCs.

What does it mean that BUI 11: Degradation of Aesthetics was removed for our AOC this year?

This BUI refers to the appearance or odor of a body of water, which can have significant effects on local communities. Aesthetic conditions in our AOC have improved over the last 30 years as a result of reducing sources of oil, grease, and trash through clean-up of contaminated waterways. One of the most recent clean-ups was the removal of contaminated sediment in Otter Creek. Trash cleanups will continue as will some additional contaminated sediment removals but overall, the AOC is significantly better aesthetically than it was in 1987.

Mike Pniewski, Maumee AOC Advisory Committee chair, was quoted in an article from the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. “The removal is the result of the significant teamwork of project partners, restoration advocates, local governments, Ohio EPA, and U.S. EPA. We look forward to the continued work from all our stakeholders in the future delisting of the Maumee AOC.”

BUI 11 is the third beneficial use impairment to be removed among the initial 10 BUIs identified as impaired in the Maumee AOC. The first was BUI 12: Added Costs to Agriculture or Industry (removed in 2015) and the second was BUI 1: Restrictions on Fish and Wildlife Consumption (removed in 2022).