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Ohio EPA Rules Army Corps of Engineers Can’t Dispose of Cuyahoga River Sediment in Lake Erie

Monday, April 14, 2014 at 7:22 PM

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The Port of Cleveland (Nick Castele / ideastream)

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has denied the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ request to dump sediment dredged from the Cleveland harbor into the open lake. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports the EPA says dredged material still may pose a threat to Lake Erie.

For years, the Army Corps of Engineers has dredged the entrance to the Cuyahoga River and dumped the sediment into a containment basin along the Lake Erie shoreline.

It keeps the harbor clear for commercial shipping, and prevents polluted sand and dirt from the river from contaminating the rest of the lake. 

But this time around, the Corps wanted to dump directly into Lake Erie. The Corps said the sediment was no longer polluted, and that disposing of it in the lake would be cheaper than filling up basins that are nearly full.

After weighing the plan for months, the Ohio EPA said no, saying the sediment still may be polluted. Chris Abbruzzese speaks for the agency.

“Those contaminants can obviously impact the water quality in the lake if they’re disposed of in the open lake, and they can impact the health of the lake and the health of the fish,” Abbruzzese said.

The CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, Will Friedman, says there’s still a few years worth of space left in the basins, and that the Corps can afford to keep filling them for the time being.

“It’s non-controversial, there’s no environmental concerns, it’s certainly safe,” Friedman said. “And so we think we ought to move forward right away—and that doesn’t foreclose any option for the future.”

The Corps has said an EPA denial might delay dredging even longer. The question now is will the Corps go along with the EPA and dredge, or won’t it?

A spokesman says the Corps will respond soon to the EPA’s decision.

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