U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers: Dredging, But No Dumping, In 2015

Lake Erie lakefront (above); Brigadier General Richard Kaiser (l) and Lt. Col. Karl Jansen (r). Photos by Brian Bull.
Lake Erie lakefront (above); Brigadier General Richard Kaiser (l) and Lt. Col. Karl Jansen (r). Photos by Brian Bull.
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The Corps maintains that its scientists have analyzed its dredging methods, and concluded putting dredged material into the lake is a safe and economical way to dispose of the 225,000 cubic yards the agency gathers from Cleveland Harbor each year.

Brigadier General Richard Kaiser says bad memories are literally burned into people’s mind of pollutants in the local waterways…..but there’s no need for apprehension.

“Over 40 years of environmental cleanup here has yielded tremendous, positive results,” says Kaiser. “To the point where the sediments in Cleveland Harbor and the Cuyahoga River…they have met the threshold for the EPA’s placement in the open lake. 20 percent of the material may not be suitable for placement in the open lake, but 80 percent of it is.”

But while dredging will go forward, opponents of dumping like Julius Ciaccia, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District -- say he doesn’t want to set back plans to clean up Lake Erie.

“We are in fact, spending $3 billion on substantially cleaning up the lake,” says Ciaccia.

“And we don’t want to see that investment being negated with some of the things they’re going to be putting into the lake. While they have scientists that have said it’s going to be at low levels, there’s no guarantees of that and we just think it’s risky.”

Dredging facilitates ship-traffic around the lake’s ports. But the Corps’ recent plans to redistribute the river muck and debris into northern Ohio’s largest freshwater body fired up opposition from local residents and the Ohio EPA. They say the sediment could drive up carcinogenic pollutants.

Speaking with ideastream Wednesday, the Corp’s District Commander, Lieutenant Karl Jensen, notes that in other cities, some gathered sediment has been repurposed for urban farming, habitat restoration, construction materials, and filling in basements.

"If it’s going to be suitable for those uses, then it should be suitable for open lake placement. So….same material, and should apply the same sort of methodology to evaluating it.”

For now, the Corps plans to put gathered river sediment into what are called Confined Disposal Facilities around the Cleveland harbor. They’re hoping to work with private vendors to repurpose more of the material in the future.

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