The lower Cuyahoga River has been modified several times over the last 200 years. Today, it empties into Lake Erie through the navigation channel west of Downtown Cleveland. A mile-long extension, called the Old River Channel, was built in 1827 and branches off the main channel before it reaches the lake. By the 1900s, the Cuyahoga River became known as one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Oil slicks on the river caught fire several times, the first occurring in 1868. The infamous 1969 fire caught the attention of Time magazine, resulting in a scathing piece on the state of river. The article incited a national movement to address water pollution, giving rise to the Clean Water Act and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Despite progress, contaminants persist in the sediment of the Old River Channel. Through its history, part of the channel was used for industrial waste disposal by a printing plant and a battery factory. In concert with ongoing restoration efforts throughout the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern, remediation could restore beneficial use of the site for the communities of Northeast Ohio.
The former graving dock at the westernmost end of the Old River Channel has the highest concentrations of contaminants. To the north and the east lie the Olde River Yacht Club and the Channel Park Marina. Along the southern banks of the Old Channel, there is a privately-owned shipyard and a number of city-owned brownfields. An investigation through Ohio EPA’s Voluntary Action Program found that the sources of pollution in these brownfields are controlled and recontamination is not a concern.
The Old River Channel branches off the main navigation channel and lies within the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern. The marker on this map shows the location of the graving dock site.
The project is currently being designed. Updates will be provided as the project progresses. If a remediation project develops, the nonfederal sponsor would take on any long-term monitoring or maintenance of potential capped areas.
Sediment remediation is like a construction project on the water. It can involve large equipment, bright lights, and noise. Many projects even continue into the night and on weekends to speed up the process. Remediation can feel inconvenient, but a bit of patience results in a big payoff. As the project develops, short-term disruptions will be detailed here.
The Old River Channel may feel a bit tucked away from the everyday bustle of community life, but cleanup actions will have far-reaching impacts on the health of Lake Erie, as well as the local economy of Cleveland. Contact U.S. EPA project manager, Mary Beth Giancarlo to provide input on the project, ask questions, or to coordinate the project with community events on the river.