Recovery efforts for the

Bottom of Lake Erie

Cleveland's familiar water crib, located three miles from shore, is one of four water intake sites used by the Water Department to obtain drinking water. But it is not the water intake under threat by a mass of polluted sediment on the East Side that feeds the Nottingham Water Treatment Plant. (Lisa DeJong/Plain Dealer file photo)

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Ohio EPA is preparing to release an updated report that raises new concerns about a contentious expanse of toxic sediment located in Lake Erie offshore from Cleveland's East Side.

The report is based on a fresh battery of tests taken from the lake bottom in the vicinity of a two-square mile mass of polluted dredgings, known as Area-1, and a water intake site for the Cleveland Water Department.

To date, there has been no evidence of PCBs or PAHs at the Nottingham Water Treatment Plant where the lake water is pumped, said Kurt Princic, chief of EPA's Northeast Ohio District.

"Cleveland has been conducting more rigorous testing of its raw and finished water, and has consistently come in with no detection for these materials of concern, " Princic said in a recent interview.

But that is not to say the situation might not change some day, said Princic and Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler.

"We are still concerned, " Princic said.

In June, the EPA performed a series of tests outside of Area-1, scooping sediment samples from about three miles offshore, and at intervals across a stretch of lake bottom extending out about eight to nine miles from shore, Princic said.

The toxic sediment located in Lake Erie offshore from Cleveland's East Side is the historic dumping ground for polluted sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel prior to the Clean Water Act passage in 1972. Map courtesy of Ohio EPA

The tests found elevated levels of PCBs and PAHs at two locations: one in sediment closest to the water intake site, and the second at the furthest location from the water intake pipe, Princic said.

All of the other samples taken in June were toxin-free and typical for the lake's bottom, Princic said. No new tests were conducted on Area-1.

Butler said more tests are needed to confirm the EPA's original findings.

"I'm no more satisfied now than I ever was that we have dispelled the fact that we have toxic sediment moving toward our drinking water, " Butler said. "We need conclusive evidence. We need more samples so that we will know, once and for all, whether this substance is moving."

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