Toxic Sediment Threatens Cleveland’s Water Supply

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Article courtesy of James F. McCarty, The Plain Dealer | April 30th, 2016 | | Shared as educational material

Photo Credit: Lisa De Jong

The Ohio EPA and the City Water Department have caught sight of a heap of toxic sediment lying at the bottom of Lake Erie, moving ever so closer to the pipes that supply drinking water to the city of Cleveland. This two-square-mile mass contains multiple poisonous substances dredged from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel. Instead of being treated, as should have been done, the material, now toxic sediment, was dumped untreated into Lake Erie years before the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. As of late, this toxic mess has been getting more of an issue as recent tests of the blob (located in a location known as Area 1) suggest the presence of high levels of PCB’s and PAH’s. These are highly toxic pollutants that are fatal to aquatic organisms and their food sources. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PACs, are an organic compound that is found in fossil fuels and pavement sealcoats. They are known for being carcinogenic. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have persisted in the environment even though they were banned in the United States since 1979. It was used as a machine lubricant and cooling fluid before going out of use.

A test of the city’s drinking water has shown no traces of the contaminants listed above but the EPA promises to check up on the situation every year. In order to prevent possible contamination, the EPA recommends the use of more chemicals in the water treatment center. For now, there doesn’t seem to be long-term effects on the water quality of the city. All the while, the EPA is continuing to investigate the dredging and the legalities behind it. To read more about the issue in Cleveland, click here:

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