It’s official: Ashtabula River is clean after 25-year project

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ASHTABULA, Ohio -- If you gaze down the Ashtabula River on a sunny day, you are likely to see people on boats enjoying a scenic ride.

What you can't see is what's underneath: 25 years of work to clean up a once notoriously contaminated river.

"Today is a great day for the Ashtabula River and for Lake Erie," said Susan Hedman, the EPA's Great Lakes Program Manager.

Hedman was in Ashtabula to announce that the river has officially been cleaned up.

It took 25 years, $85 million, mostly from the federal and state government, and the removal of tons of sediments laced with toxic PCB's.

While the Cuyahoga River famously burned in 1969, leading in part to Congress passing the Clean Water Act, many other waterways were in similarly desperate shape -- the victims of decades of industrial pollution in the years before there were environmental laws and regulations.

The Ashtabula River was one of them.

Then, in the early 1990's, the clean-up began -- a sustained effort that has gone on for 25 years.

"There are not many projects that take 25 years," says Craig Butler, the Ohio EPA Director.

The Army Corps of Engineers has removed about 120,000 cubic yards of sediment in the past two years - work done in large part because of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that the federal government began in 2010.

The Ashtabula River feeds into Lake Erie.

Congressman David Joyce, a Republican from northeast Ohio, says nothing is more important economically than the health of Lake Erie.

"We have to take care of the great lakes - period," Joyce said.

The hope is that the river can now lived up to the original Algonquin name given to it by Native Americans.

That name is "Hashtabula" -- which means "river of many fish."