Cuyahoga River closer to removal from
AP, Marion Star (OH)
Published October 9th, 2004
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Years of cleanup efforts have moved
the Cuyahoga River closer to what was once an unthinkable
goal: removal from an international list of the most-polluted
sites on the Great Lakes.
"Twenty-five years ago, I would never have dreamt
it would look as good as it does, or that people would
rent $2,500 apartments to have views of it," said
Mark Moloney, an environmental engineer with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's Cleveland office. "That
would have been unthinkable in 1975."
The Cuyahoga is perhaps best known nationally as the
river that caught on fire when an oil slick burned in
1969. But a number of changes have occurred along the
heavily polluted, industrial and urban portion of the
Discharges from municipal wastewater plants and industrial
plants have been cleaned up, causing a rebirth in the
variety and number of fish and bugs. An Ohio EPA study
four years ago found 62 species of fish in the river where
there were none nearly 30 years earlier.
Several river areas between Akron and Cleveland -- once
the most-polluted portion of the Cuyahoga -- have met
some or all of the goals set by the federal Clean Water
Area environmental planners acknowledge, though, that
a complete cleanup of the river is at least 20 years away.
"There's no reason why it shouldn't be our goal,"
said Jim White, executive director of the Cuyahoga River
Remedial Action Plan. "Everything we do should be
aimed at restoring the river and put it into a level of
Since 1988, the Cuyahoga and 10 miles of Cleveland's
shoreline on Lake Erie have been one of 43 sites on the
Great Lakes designated by the United States and Canada
as areas of concern because of major pollution.
Three other Ohio waterways are on the list: the Maumee
River in Toledo, the Ashtabula River in Ashtabula and
the Black River in Lorain County.
Under an international agreement between Canada and the
United States, the governments set 14 good traits that
a body of water must meet before it can be removed as
an "area of concern."
The criteria the Cuyahoga does meet include no restrictions
on drinking water, no bird and animal deformities and
reproduction problems and no restrictions on agricultural
use of water.
But the river fails to meet 10 goals. Among them, it
has a significant loss of fish and wildlife habitat because
of dredging and development, and there are restrictions
on fish consumption.
Long-term problems that need resolved are eliminating
the combined sewage and rainwater discharges into the
river. The city of Akron and the Northeast Ohio Regional
Sewer District are planning to spend more than $1.3 billion
to correct the discharge problem, but that will take at
least 20 years.
The biggest pollution problems facing the Cuyahoga are
chemicals, oils and other debris that wash off parking
lots, yards and roads during rainstorms.
"There are issues out there that will be with us
a long time that are difficult and complicated to solve,"
said Tom Denbow, Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan chairman.
"But even a partial delisting will be a victory."