Ohio EPA holds public hearing on dredging

TOLEDO -- Is it safe to dump soil dredged from Toledo Harbor into Lake Erie?

That was the question Wednesday evening during a public hearing called by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency at One Government Center, reports News 11's Tim Miller.

The Maumee River is filled with sediments that flow downstream for miles, and the silt and sledge end up at Toledo Harbor, reducing the amount of water for ships and barges to get through.

Simply put: The harbor has to be dredged -- or it will clog. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants the Ohio EPA to grant a permit to allow them to dump the sledge a few miles out into Lake Erie in Lucas County.

At the hearing, many said that would do serious harm to the environment. Even the EPA admitted to some ambivalence.

"We're not crazy about it ourselves. It's an economic issue at this point. We have been working with the Corps, Department of Natural Resources and some others to try to find alternatives to open lake disposal and there are some ideas. But right now, costs are prohibitive," said Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA.

The Ohio EPA held the public hearing and recorded public comment, which it will accept in writing until Oct. 30. Ohio EPA representatives said they expect opposition.

Opposition is what the EPA got from the Lake Erie Waterfowlers, a wildlife and wetlands conservation group.

"These sediments negatively impact fish spawning and feeding areas. They promote the growth of undesirable algae, lower drinking water quality and increase sedimentation of other parts of the lake and bay," complained John Lesniewicz.

A representative from the Toledo Waterways Initiative, the city's 15-year program designed to improve its aging sewer system, testified that the open lake dumping could harm drinking water and fish.

The Ohio EPA says open lake dumping has been going on for years here, without a negative impact. But it still has a decision to make on this proposal.

Posted by KO