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Great Lakes Article:

Plain Dealer releases pollution data
John C. Kuehner
The Plain Dealer

The Plain Dealer has agreed to release a confidential environmental report that prompted Cleveland City Council members to delay ratifying a deal for lakefront property.

Council members were miffed Monday night when city attorneys said council could not see a report prepared for The Plain Dealer when the newspaper sold 15 acres to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority in 1998.

The report, the attorneys told council, could not be released because it included a confidentiality clause. Council then delayed a vote on a deal with the port authority.

But yesterday, the newspaper told the city's law director, Subodh Chandra, and the port authority's lawyer, Dennis Wilcox, that the company was waiving the confidentiality clause.

The land, which sits along the southern bank of the old channel of the Cuyahoga River, had been polluted over the years. Council members were concerned about the level of contamination. They did not want to acquire a piece of land without knowing the extent of the pollution.

The site is part of a larger deal that the city is making with the port authority to move some port facilities, create two lakefront parks and open up other chunks of the lakefront for public access and development.

Cleveland would get 9 acres of the riverside land for a park. The port authority would keep 6 acres to continue leasing it to Great Lakes Towing Co.

The land had been used for industrial purposes for at least 90 years, according to the environmental report, prepared in 1995 by Hull & Associates Inc. It's contaminated with multiple chemicals, but only a few sampling areas exceed levels allowed under state standards. The groundwater had been contaminated with arsenic.

By restricting the use of groundwater and sealing the few sampling areas that exceeded state standards, the site could be reused by industry, the report said.

"Our attorney looked at it and determined it was suitable for port purposes," said Geri Waters, the port authority's spokeswoman.

But to use the land as a park would require additional cleanup, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, but it's unclear how much that cleanup would cost.

The Plain Dealer bought the land in 1964 as a possible site for a new office building and printing plant. But the newspaper decided that the land was too small and instead leased it to various tenants.

One tenant, Chemical and Minerals Reclamation Inc., collected and stored wastes, such as paints, grease, solvents and resins. A fire erupted on the site in July 1980, and the U.S. EPA and Coast Guard cleaned up the site.

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