TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - There's a new, safer place to put soil dredged from the shipping channel in the Maumee River.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Great Lakes Dredged Material Center for Innovation on Summit Street Monday morning.
The shipping channel has to be dredged of a million cubic yards of material every year in order to keep it open. And instead of dumping that material into Lake Erie, some of it can go into fields at the new center.
It's also a chance to reuse the material.
"If we can use this material to enchance the community, enhance agricultural fields or perhaps blend it with compost or other types of material, then we can create something that has more benefit to the community - instead of just putting the material out into Lake Erie," said Joe Cappel, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
Experts will try to grow crops from the dredged material at the new center. And local farmers will be invited in to see how the crops are growing.
Design and construction of the Dredged Material Center came from a $2.5 million grant from the Ohio Health Lake Erie Fund.
The center is considered a pilot program, but officials hope to do it on a much larger scale to help reduce the threat of harmful algal blooms.
"We stand here at the City of Toledo, always ready and willing to move forward and to make sure that we are not looking at it just from the economics but also from the environmental and from how it's going to affect neighborhoods," said Toledo Mayor Paul Hicks-Hudson.
Mayor Hicks-Hudson thinks the new use for the dredged material could also help create jobs.
But not everything went smoothly during Monday's ceremony.
The EPA Director was interrupted several times while trying to speak at the opening of the new facility by the "Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie," say they simply want a public hearing to talk about an EPA report on the lake.
"If the Ohio EPA's recommendations are followed, it's going to do just about nothing for the lake. So, this is a draft report to the U.S. EPA and a hearing would allow citizens to point out the shortcomings in it and make suggestions for making it better," said Mike Ferner, Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie.
So far, the EPA Director has not responded to the group's request.