- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Environmental officials approved the dredging of Cleveland Harbor and the Cuyahoga River but said the sediment can’t be dumped out in Lake Erie.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on Monday said it will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge up to 225,000 cubic yards of material and deposit it in designated confined disposal facilities, but not out in the open lake.

The state agency and the corps had been locked in a disagreement over whether the sediment was clean enough to be dumped in Lake Erie.

The agency said it did not approve the in-lake placement because of concerns about the potential of increased polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs and considered probable carcinogens, accumulating in fish.

The state EPA said also that the proposal was contrary to federal guidelines.

The Ohio EPA was worried the sediment dumping will increase toxicity in Lake Erie fish, such as walleye and perch, that are popular with sportsmen. The state said the plan would establish a “worrisome precedent.”

The Corps of Engineers contended that moving the dredged sediments to two lake sites five to nine miles offshore for disposal would create “no significant impact.” The agency says the quality of Cleveland Harbor sediments has improved and now meets federal guidelines for “open-lake placement.”

“Using the confined disposal facilities is the right decision and the decision Ohio and the Army Corps made for 40 years,” Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said in a statement Monday. “Placing the material in the open lake doesn’t make sense for the health of Lake Erie.”

The Ohio EPA said it would Ohio continue to work with the corps “to more fully analyze the dredged material in the future” and work with it and other parties “to develop appropriate long-term strategies for managing and the beneficial use of material generated by future dredging activities.”

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