Director: Ohio unlikely to allow sediment dumping in lake

TOLEDO, Ohio -- The federal agency in charge of maintaining Cleveland's shipping channels is making the case again for dumping dredged sediment into Lake Erie, saying tests show the soil and mud isn't contaminated.

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But the head of Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency said Friday he remains unconvinced and is unlikely to allow putting the sediment in the lake instead of a containment facility.

A final decision hasn't been made yet on whether to reject the request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Craig Butler, the state EPA director.

The two sides have been locked in a long-running dispute over what to do with the sediment dredged from Cleveland's harbour.

Ohio's environmental agency says the sediment is loaded with PCBs -- a chemical linked to cancer -- and is a threat to water quality and fish. The Army Corps says the sediment is clean now and it would be much cheaper to dispose of it in the lake.

The Ohio EPA sued the federal agency last year after it threatened to stop dredging until Ohio paid $1.4 million to put the material in a containment facility. A federal judge ordered the dredging to continue, but the lawsuit over who pays is still to be decided.

Congress in late December approved a bill that included a stipulation preventing the Army Corps from dumping hazardous dredged material in the lake without meeting requirements set by the state.

The Army Corps said this week that its own review of sediment from the Cuyahoga River shows the level of PCBs is similar to that in sediment found in the lake off the Cleveland shore.

"Moving sediment from the river channel to an open lake placement site would not result in lowering Lake Erie's water quality," Lt. Col. Karl Jansen, commander of the agency's Buffalo district, wrote in a letter.

The Army Corps also called the Ohio EPA's tests on the same samples unreliable, saying they greatly overestimated the risk the chemicals within the sediment would pose.

Butler said that the state used methods approved by the U.S. EPA and that the Army Corps didn't raise any concerns with them about the data or the evaluation process.


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