Ashtabula River Cleanup Pays Off
Water quality in the Ashtabula River and its tributaries has significantly improved since the water body was last tested in 2002, according to a new Ohio EPA report.
Biological communities in the Ashtabula River have improved since the dredging of contaminated sediments and installation of habitat enhancements. Samples taken in 2011 show biological communities in the River main stem are very good to exceptional in quality.
Stream channel restoration activities and the removal of PCB-contaminated sediments and high concentrations of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) prior to 2003, and again in 2012 and 2013, are directly related to water quality improvements including those documented in the study.
Areas that still need attention are the Fields Brook and Strong Brook tributaries.
Recognizing the need for dredging and preferring the RAP type process over actions associated with Superfund site designation, local leaders formed the Ashtabula River Partnership in 1994 and the Ashtabula River Cooperation Group in 1997.
Private and public stakeholders worked together in these affiliations to produce the Ashtabula River Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement in 2002. Concurrent passage of the Great Lakes Legacy Act enabled federal matching funds to become available for the dredging project in 2005.
The Ashtabula City Port Authority secured matching funds and provided leadership for the $60 million sediment remediation effort completed in 2008. The US Army Corps of Engineers completed an additional $15 million downstream dredging project to fully open passage to the Lake at the same time.
Remedial dredging efforts began in 2006 to remove over 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment containing approximately 12.5 tons of hazardous PCBs (Ashtabula River RAP 2008).
Since 2008, $9.6 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding has been secured to continue dredging. Ohio EPA participated in the dredging projects with technical support, direct funding, and active participation at numerous meetings.