- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A long-running battle over dumping sediment dredged from Cleveland’s harbor into Lake Erie still doesn’t seem settled even after Congress weighed in on the debate.

Ohio’s environmental regulators and the federal agency that maintains the lake’s shipping channels have been locked in an argument for years over what to do with the tons of mud, soil and sand.

And both sides don’t appear to be budging.

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

The director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Craig Butler, said Congress has now joined the Legislature and regulators in telling the federal agency that it can’t dispose of the sediment in the lake if it’s not safe.



“I don’t understand how the Corps cannot clearly get that message,” he said.

Army Corps spokesman Bruce Sanders said Tuesday that the agency has no plans to put dredged sediment in the lake without a water-quality certification.

But the head of the agency’s district based in Buffalo, New York, still believes some of the sediment from the Cuyahoga River is safe to put in the lake based on its scientific research - an assertion disputed by the Ohio EPA.

“Our proposal is safe for drinking water, protective of the environment, and in the best interest of the American taxpayer,” Lt. Col. Karl Jansen, commander of the Buffalo district, wrote in a letter last November.

Ohio officials are reviewing the request from the Army Corps for a water-quality certification that would allow the agency to dump sediment in the lake.

“It’s largely the same data they’ve used in the past, same application,” Butler said. “I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I doubt we will be able to issue it to them.”

The two sides also don’t agree on who should pay for putting the sediment into a containment facility instead of the lake.

The state last year sued the Army Corps after it said it wouldn’t dredge the shipping channel until Ohio paid $1.4 million to put the material in the containment facility.

A federal judge later ordered the dredging to continue, but the lawsuit over who pays is still to be decided.

Both Ohio and the Army Corps have been working on finding new ways to get rid of the tons of silt that is dredged from harbors in northern Ohio to keep them navigable.

Some of those ideas include using it for landscaping, leveling farm fields and filling the basements of houses that have been torn down.

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