On May 3, 2021, citing tremendous river restoration progress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency—with support from the Ashtabula River Advisory Council—recommended that Ohio’s Ashtabula River be removed from the U.S.-Canadian list of the most heavily polluted areas on the Great Lakes.
The Ashtabula River AOC would be the first of Ohio’s four AOCs to be delisted. Since 2006, successful river cleanup and restoration efforts have dramatically improved habitat for fish, reduced levels of contaminants in sediment, and restored habitat in the area known as the 5-1/2 Slip.
Now that environmental issues have been addressed, the agencies anticipate that the Ashtabula community will continue to see accompanying economic and social benefits.
The public comment period on the proposed delisting begins on May 3 and ends on June 6. Federal and state agencies will hold a one-hour virtual public meeting starting at 6 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 17. Following a brief presentation by EPA, OEPA, OLEC and the advisory committee, members of the public will be able to ask questions and submit comments through a chat function. Register for the virtual public meeting. Written questions and comments can also be submitted via email until June 6 to Melanie.Barbis@epa.ohio.gov, the Northeast Ohio AOC Coordinator in OEPA’s Surface Water Division.
Significant public and private funding for the pollution cleanup and restoration work was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the pre-GLRI Great Lakes Legacy Act program, the State of Ohio and a consortium of industrial partners.
A draft report detailing the comprehensive cleanup of the Ashtabula River “area of concern” is available for public review and comment. The agencies will consider public input before making a final decision on delisting.
2020 photo by Tim Kiser (via Wikipedia) shows the Ashtabula River as viewed from the Riverview Covered Bridge on the boundary of Plymouth Township (left) and Ashtabula Township (right) in Ashtabula County, Ohio.