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EPA, state and local partners will fund $50 million cleanup of Ashtabula River; nation's largest Legacy Act cleanup

Release Date: 12/09/2005
Contact Information:

CONTACT: Phillippa Cannon, (312) 353-6218

No. 05 - OPA262

CHICAGO (Dec. 9, 2005) - EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson today announced a federal-state-local agreement to fund and carry out a $50 million cleanup of contaminated sediment from the Ashtabula River in Ohio. This cleanup project, under the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002, is the largest to date in terms of scope and cost and Ohio's first. The Legacy Act is a special initiative to clean up 31 pollution hot spots on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.

"This ambitious cleanup under President Bush's Great Lakes Legacy program will enhance and restore Ashtabula's recreational, residential and economic values," said Johnson. "The water that flows from the Ashtabula River out to Lake Erie will be cleaner because of our efforts."

EPA in cooperation with the Ashtabula City Port Authority (the non-federal sponsor) will clean up 600,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from a one-mile stretch of river, a tributary to Lake Erie. The cost of this fourth Legacy Act cleanup will be split evenly by EPA and the Ashtabula City Port Authority and its partners. The State of Ohio will provide $7 million as part of the Port Authority's cost share.

The work, expected to be completed in 2009, will be done in close cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, the Corps will conduct navigation dredging downstream of the project area.

"Cleaning up the contaminated sediment in the Ashtabula River ensures healthier drinking water for Ohio families and improved recreational opportunities, like fishing. I worked to enact the Great Lakes Legacy Act and secure funding through the legislation to help us improve Ohio's waters which are magnificent natural resources," said Senator Mike DeWine, Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force and sponsor of the Great Lakes Legacy Act. "I have personally discussed this project with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on several occasions and I am pleased that the Ashtabula River cleanup is Ohio's first Great Lakes Legacy Project. We need to protect and restore the Great Lakes and its tributaries for our children and grandchildren."

"The Ashtabula River dredging is an example of what we can accomplish together," said Ohio Governor Bob Taft. "Federal investment in this project is being matched by private dollars and $7 million from the State of Ohio. This is a model for the way in which we must all come together to advance the cleanup and restoration of the Great Lakes."

The Ashtabula's name comes from the Iroquois and means "river of many fish." Numerous species of fish still live there but PCB pollution caused the Ohio Department of Public Health to post warning signs in 1997 to advise limiting consumption of fish caught from the river. The goal of this Legacy Act cleanup is to reduce contamination to safe levels so such warnings will no longer be necessary.

"I am pleased that Ashtabula and the Environmental Protection Agency have reached this agreement as we work to clean up the Ashtabula site. This represents a positive step forward, and I am pleased that we can now look to the future. For more than 40 years, I have worked to protect the Great Lakes, and this agreement will help advance the restoration of our Great Lakes," said Senator George V. Voinovich.

"I am so grateful to the EPA and the Administration for making this happen," said Congressman Steven LaTourette. "This announcement is the culmination of so much hard work by the River Partnership and hundreds of people in Ashtabula. This project spans an entire generation of federal partners from Congressman Stanton, Eckert and Fingerhut, and the fact that the dredging will finally happen on my watch is just so rewarding."

"On behalf of the partnership, I wish to thank EPA," said Fred C. Leitert, Co-Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Ashtabula River Partnership. "Throughout Ashtabula, we are looking forward with great enthusiasm to the completion of the project, which is vital to the continued viability of the port, the City of Ashtabula, and the surrounding community."

Contaminated sediment is one of the major reasons many Great Lakes fish are not safe to eat in unlimited quantities. It also harms aquatic habitat and pollutes sources of drinking water. This has been a long-term and persistent problem throughout the entire Great Lakes basin.

There are still millions of cubic yards of contaminated sediment to be removed from the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act authorizes $270 million in funding over five years for cleanups of contaminated sediment hotspots. In 2004, the first year funds were available, Congress appropriated $9.9 million. In 2005, Congress appropriated $22.3 million, and $30 million will be available in 2006. Cleanups of Black Lagoon, an inlet of the Detroit River in Trenton, Mich. as well as Newton Creek/Hog Island Inlet in Superior, Wis., were completed last month. Another GLLA project is under way at Ruddiman Creek in Muskegon, Mich., and more projects are expected.

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