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Administrator Wheeler Highlights Trump Administration Commitment to Great Lakes, Superfund Cleanup in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (June 15, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Wheeler began his visit to Southeast Wisconsin announcing the first ever Trash Free Waters grant for the Great Lakes, touring the Solvay Coke Superfund site, and meeting with Wisconsin dairy farmers.

“The health of the Great Lakes has always been a top priority for President Trump and this creative project will likely become a symbol of Milwaukee’s commitment to clean water,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “When you combine the clean-up of the Kinnickinnic River with the clean-up and redevelopment of the Solvay Coke site, there is no mistaking how committed EPA is to revitalizing Milwaukee’s waterfront.”

“Milwaukee’s harbor district is proof of the importance of partnerships in making environmental progress,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “From restoring contaminated rivers to turning polluted eyesores into community assets, we can only get it done when we work together.”

Administrator Wheeler kicked off the day with a tour of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences facility. After the tour, he announced the selection of the first-ever Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Trash Free Waters grant to Harbor District, Inc. at a Great Lakes press conference with Regional Administrator Thiede. They were selected to receive a $492,300 grant to construct and install a trash collector on the Kinnickinnic River just south of W. Becher St., about a mile south of the conjunction of the Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee Rivers.

Removing trash, litter and garbage – including plastics – from marine and freshwater environments is one of EPA's highest priorities. Administrator Wheeler created the Trash-Free Great Lakes grant program in July 2019 requesting competitive applications for $2 million in GLRI funding for community-based projects to clean up beaches and waterways to ensure the Great Lakes watershed continues to provide habitat for wildlife and drinking water and recreation all Americans.

“After years of neglect and decline, the Kinnickinnic River is experiencing a rebirth as local and federal partners remove concrete channel, restore its banks and clean its waters. Our community is anxious to get to work on one of its most visible problems – trash,” said Harbor District Executive Director Lilith Fowler.

While in Milwaukee, Administrator Wheeler also toured the Solvay Coke Superfund site, which is simultaneously being cleaned up by We Energies and redeveloped into a global headquarters for Komatsu Mining Corp. Last year, EPA announced a hazardous waste cleanup at the site, which includes $15.9 million soil cleanup plan by a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP). These partnerships have facilitated successful cleanup and redevelopment of site. This is yet another reflection of the Trump EPA’s commitment to prioritize the Superfund program and ensure that these sites are cleaned up as quickly and safely as possible.

Read more about other Superfund successes across Wisconsin and the country in the Superfund Accomplishments Report.

The day concluded with a tour of Golden E Dairy with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, where Administrator Wheeler saw first hand how Wisconsin’s world class dairy products contribute to the state’s vibrant economy. While at the dairy, Administrator Wheeler heard from local farmers  and members of the Wisconsin ag community about important  issues including EPA's role in pesticide approvals, supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, and the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). 

“Conservation and caring for the environment is something that Wisconsin farmers care passionately about. It was an incredible experience to host Administrator Wheeler on a Wisconsin dairy farm to show how we care for the land, livestock and our other natural resources,” said Joe Bragger, President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

“It is critically important that dairy farmers have a productive relationship with the EPA as well as state and local regulatory agencies,” said Tom Crave, President of the Dairy Business Association. “This begins with open lines of communication, so today’s farm visit was a welcomed opportunity. Ultimately, farmers and regulators need to maintain a balance between protecting the environment and protecting the right and ability to farm. These are not mutually exclusive. We strongly believe both are achievable.”