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Environmental Studies

Introducing the Lake Effect Archive

The Lake Effect Archive contains resources relevant to the environmental, historic, political, public health, and scientific issues surrounding Waukegan Harbor. Lake Effect(Island Press), an environmental memoir written by Nancy Nichols, recounts a childhood in Waukegan during an era when Waukegan Harbor was heavily polluted with toxic substances.

Lake Effect also describes Nancy Nichols’ (and her sister’s) adult experience with cancers, and explores the possibility that these might have environmental origins. The story of Waukegan Harbor is an important case study and a prime example of the forces at play around the Great Lakes.

The Lake Effect archive and research collection consists of official records of the contaminants in the three Waukegan Superfund sites, including original court documents as well as material on the industrial and political history of the region.  The Superfund sites contain a variety of toxins, including asbestos, lead, arsenic, benzene and ammonia; one million pounds of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) still line Waukegan Harbor.

Waukegan’s waterfront went through a series of changes, beginning as a venue for commercial fishing, evolving into an industrial hub, and languishing as a home to abandoned toxic waste sites. Waukegan is an EPA-designated environmental justice community, and its harbor is now journeying toward mitigation and restoration.

This project is funded through Environmental Studies’ Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant.