News and Activities

3-Year Cleanup of Ashtabula River, Ohio, Sediment Begins

Date Posted: July 25, 2006

A three-year, $50 million cleanup of the Ashtabula River in Ohio has begun. The goal is to remove remove 25,000 pounds of hazardous PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), low-level radioactive material, heavy metals and other chemicals from the river bottom. The Service is working closely with US EPA and Ohio EPA on the cleanup and are members of the technical working group for the project.

From the 1940s through the late 1970s, discharges of contaminants from industries along the river, settled in the mud along the last two miles of the river before it flows into Lake Erie. The federal-state-local cleanup project will be carried out under the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002, a special initiative aimed at cleaning up 31 toxic hot spots known as "areas of concern" around the Great Lakes.

Last month, federal, state and local officials, including Ohio Governor Bob Taft and U.S. Congressman Steven LaTourette, gathered in the city of Ashtabula to celebrate the start of cleanup along a one mile stretch of the river bottom.

"This is such an important day for the community, and one that was a long time coming," said Congressman LaTourette, an Ohio Republican. "I've been working with local officials, the Ashtabula River Partnership and the EPA for 12 years, and the effort even predates my time in Congress. A lot of people were very patient, and a lot of people never gave up hope that this day would come. Our long-awaited reward will be a vibrant and clean Ashtabula Harbor."

The cleanup plan involves dredging the sediment and pumping it through a three mile long pipeline to a disposal facility near State Road and the upper reaches of Fields Brook, a stream that flows into the Ashtabula River. There is concentrated industrial development around Fields Brook and east of the river mouth.

Workers will remove about 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment and restore the east side of the river to provide a clean environment for fish and other wildlife. Because the sediment can flow into Lake Erie, removing it is good for the lake and the entire Great Lakes basin. A secondary benefit will be a much deeper Ashtabula River, allowing for the return of normal commercial navigation and recreational boating in the river and harbor.

"This important project is a win-win not only for the community of Ashtabula, but for all inhabitants downstream as well," said Fred Leitert, co-chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Ashtabula Partnership. "We are looking forward with great enthusiasm and appreciation to this important day."

Frank Horvath 612-713-5336

Dave Devault 612-713-5340

US Fish and Wildlife Service, Midwest Region, Natural Resource and Damage Assessment Site - Ashtabula River and Harbor

US EPA, Great Lakes Legacy Act - Ashtabula Project

Last updated: June 12, 2015