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Cuyahoga River Water Quality Continues to Improve; U.S. EPA Agrees to Remove “Restrictions on Fish Consumption” Impairment Designation
Confirming research showing continued improvements to local water quality, U.S. EPA has agreed with Ohio EPA’s recommendation that restrictions on fish consumption in the Cuyahoga River (from Gorge Dam to Lake Erie) can be eased. Any remaining advisories for that segment of stream are now consistent with the state’s general recommendations (updated yearly).
In 2018, Ohio EPA asked U.S. EPA to remove what’s known as a Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI), in this case, a restriction on fish consumption from this stream segment identified as an Area of Concern (AOC). The state made this request based on data from fish tissue sampling which shows significant improvements in the health of fish in the stream. Federal officials agreed. Removing this impairment takes Ohio one step closer to the goal of delisting the Cuyahoga River as an Area of Concern.
“This is an example of the progress that can be achieved when you collaborate and dedicate resources to improving the quality of water in our state,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said. “We need to continue to invest in our water resources so that we can see additional improvements.”
BUIs identify specific problems that can prevent a waterbody from meeting its full water quality potential. In 1992, the AOC advisory committee identified 10 BUIs, degrading the Cuyahoga River and needing to be addressed. The seven impairments which remain are detailed on the Cuyahoga River AOC webpage.
“If you safely can eat the fish, we know that’s a great indication that water quality is improving,” Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson said. “The Ohio Areas of Concern are a priority and we look forward to working with our many partners in continuing progress in the Cuyahoga River, to advance Governor DeWine’s major priority of restoring our state’s crown jewel, Lake Erie.”
“The removal of this BUI is a huge step for the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern,” EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp said. “Many years of collaborative effort at the federal, state and community levels are paying off and we’re making great progress in improving the health of the river.”
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the most infamous Cuyahoga River fire, we reflect on the progress that has been made,” Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, CEO, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District said. “We appreciate our advisory and technical support role on the Cuyahoga AOC and know that the data provided by our Water Quality and Industrial Surveillance team has been integral in approving this BUI removal.”
This significant milestone was achieved through the collaborative efforts of dedicated local, state and federal partners. In September, Ohio EPA held a public meeting in Parma to accept comments as part of the removal recommendation process. Members of the public were invited to attend to learn about the BUI change proposals and provide comments. Ohio EPA and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission continue to advance towards the removal of the remaining BUIs with the AOC local partners. As each BUI removal goal is met, Ohio EPA will notify the community, seek public input and submit additional BUI removal recommendations to U.S. EPA.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.