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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative dredging project underway at Otter Creek

For years, the Otter Creek area has been considered one of the most environmentally degraded areas near the Great Lakes. Protecting Lake Erie is the goal.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Now that it's springtime, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is launching a dredging project. The goal is to clean up a stretch of Otter Creek that leads into Maumee Bay to help protect Lake Erie.

Dredging started this week. There's a stretch of 1.7 miles of Otter Creek that has high levels of hydrocarbons and diesel range organics. For years, this area has been considered one of the most environmentally degraded areas near the Great Lakes.

The oil industry has been a part of Toledo for many years. It wasn't until the 70s when the EPA's Clean Water Act got refineries to stop dumping in the river. Now, they're cleaning up sins of the past.

"These contaminants are impacting organisms, small creatures the fish and other aquatic creatures eat, and they are the foundation of the ecosystem here in Maumee Bay," said Ashley Binion-Zuccaro, Toledo area program manager with the Army Corps of Engineers. "And so cleaning up Otter Creek and here what we are doing is improving the overall health of the ecosystem." 

A hydraulic vacuum dredge will spend the spring and summer scooping up nearly 57,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

Then that's pumped to a port authority's disposal facility. Storing that amount of sediment would fill three football fields 10-feet high!

The cleanup will cost over $12 million. They'll replace the sediment with a foot of sand to create a healthy habitat and let nature take over.

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