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Ohio, federal agency at odds again over dumping mud, sand from Cuyahoga River into Lake Erie

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CLEVELAND — Ohio's environmental regulators and a federal agency that maintains Lake Erie's shipping channels are at odds again over dumping sediment in Lake Erie.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to take sediment from the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland's harbor and dump it into the lake — just months after backing off from the same idea after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency objected.

The federal agency believes the sediment from the river is no longer polluted and can be safely put in the lake, which is about $5 million cheaper than putting it in a disposal facility near downtown Cleveland.

Ohio EPA is opposed to that plan. It disputed a statement released by the Army Corps that said the agency's scientists had confirmed that putting sediment in the lake "is not expected to result in significant adverse" environmental impacts.

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler told The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/1zcNIrC) that he was disappointed that the Army Corps again wants to put "contaminated material" in the lake. He said the sediment could increase toxic PCB levels in fish by 10 to 20 percent.

Butler said the Army Corps used a lesser standard to determine that sediment was safe.

Lt. Col. Karl Jansen, commander of the Buffalo District of the Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement that he stood by the finding and the methods used.

Ohio's attorney general sent a letter this past week to the Army Corps calling for a public hearing on the issue.

The Ohio EPA and Army Corps also disagree on whether the federal agency could dispose of the material in Lake Erie without a permit.

The two sides said earlier this year that they would work together on finding new ways to get rid of the tons of silt that is dredged from the harbor in Toledo and dumped into the lake.

State lawmakers last spring approved spending $10 million to research alternative uses for the silt.

Butler has set a goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the dumping of sediment dredged from Toledo's harbor into the lake within five years.

Potential options for the silt include using it to make wetlands, putting it on farm fields or mixing it with soil to make compost.


Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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