Ohio EPA approved a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Cleveland Harbor and Cuyahoga River, which is essential to allowing shipping traffic to continue using the economically important waterway.
Ohio EPA’s Section 401 water quality certification allows the Corps of Engineers to dredge up to 225,000 cubic yards of material and deposit it in the designated confined disposal facilities, as it has done since the early 1970s. No dredging material can be placed in the open lake.
“Using the confined disposal facilities is the right decision and the decision Ohio and the Army Corps made for 40 years,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler. “Placing the material in the open lake doesn’t make sense for the health of Lake Erie.”
Ohio EPA did not authorize open-lake placement of the dredge material this year because the Agency has concerns about the potential of increased PCB bioaccumulation in fish.
This is a concern because Lake Erie already has fish consumption advisories due to legacy PCB contamination and PCB bioaccumulation.
In addition, the water quality certification application contained insufficient data to characterize the sediments and the proposal was contrary to the federal Great Lakes Testing Manual.
Ohio EPA will continue to work with the Corps to more fully analyze the dredged material in the future and work with the Corps, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and other interested parties to develop appropriate long-term strategies for managing and the beneficial use of material generated by future dredging activities.
Ohio EPA held a public meeting on March 6, 2014, in Cleveland to discuss the issue and take public comments.
Issuance of the final certification can be appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC).
Press Release, April 15, 2014