CHICAGO — Citing tremendous progress, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Lake Erie Commission and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, with support from the Ashtabula River Advisory Council, recommends that the Ashtabula River be removed from the U.S.-Canadian list of the most heavily polluted areas on the Great Lakes.

A report detailing the comprehensive cleanup of the Ashtabula River “area of concern” will soon be available for public review and comment. The agencies will consider public input before making a final decision on delisting.

The Ashtabula River AOC would be the first of Ohio’s four areas of concern to be delisted.

“A lot of time and effort has been put into this process by members of our City Port Authority, city councils,administrations and officials from the county, state and federal levels,” City Manager Jim Timonere said. “I am thrilled this is being proposed and hope we can remove the stigma our river has had for decades. I am very thankful to all those involved who helped make this happen.” 

County Commissioner J.P. Ducro IV said this is a great accomplishment.

“We are grateful that the Ashtabula River is being formally declared a healthy and vibrant river and a critical part of our community,” he said.

Since 2006, success-ful 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.

Ashtabula City Council President John Roskovics said this is great news for Ashtabula.

“I grew up next to Fields Brook and walked daily over the Ashtabula River so I well remember the days when the water was very polluted and unsafe,” he said. “I’m so appreciative of all who worked to help clean the river. It’s a vital part of our city.”

The public comment period on the proposed delisting ends on June 6.

Federal and state agencies will hold a one-hour virtual public meeting starting at 6 p.m. 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. Interested parties may 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, the pre-GLRI Great Lakes Legacy Act program, the State of Ohio and a consortium of industrial partners.

To view the draft delisting report, visit: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/ashtabula-river-area-concern-draft-final-delisting-report

To learn more about the Ashtabula River AOC, visit EPA’s website: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/ashtabula-river-aoc.

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