The Port of Cleveland recently petitioned the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to modify the description of the Cleveland Harbor navigation project in law to prevent sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga River from being placed in Lake Erie.
That request has now been supported by a bipartisan group of six US Congressional Representatives from Ohio. The effort comes on the heels of a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for open lake dumping of potentially contaminated river sediment in the open waters of Lake Erie.
To keep the Cuyahoga River deep enough for large commercial ships, up to 250,000 cubic yards of sediment must be dredged annually from the riverbed and harbor. Traditionally, sediment has been placed in confined disposal facilities (CDFs) due to concerns about contamination from the river’s historic industrial use and other sources.
Although river sediments are now far less contaminated than in the past, recent testing still shows trace levels of the toxin PCB, which accumulates in the food chain, including Lake Erie fish.
To avoid the need for open lake dumping, the port developed a viable, cost effective alternative plan to eliminate any need for open lake dumping through a combination of beneficial use and maximization of space in existing CDFs that are close to being at capacity.
Despite the port’s alternative, which previously was accepted by USACE as a cost-effective solution, and the Ohio EPA’s order for no open lake dumping under its authority via the Clean Water Act and Coastal Zone Management Act, the USACE has continued to push open lake dumping.
The Ohio General Assembly also recently passed a law banning all open lake dumping by 2020, and the Port’s request to modify federal policy would eliminate any potential conflict between state and federal policy.