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Published: Friday, 1/19/2001

Study to list most polluted parts of Ottawa River

Residents should get a better idea in the fall about what parts of the Ottawa River are most dangerous.

A two-year analysis of the river's hot spots is to be released then at a hearing. No date has been set.

Officials have long considered a mile-long section between the Lagrange Street and Stickney Avenue bridges as the river's most polluted area, because of a legacy of leaky industrial landfills there.

Health officials have urged people for years to avoid body contact with the water or eat fish from the river.

Kurt Erichsen, environmental planning director for the Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments, told members of the Ottawa River Action Group this week that the new report probably won't change that view.

But it will provide a detailed breakdown of the risk to human health and general ecology of the stream at specific points. Past studies have made statements about chemical waste that has escaped from the landfills, with probing too deep into the sediment, he said.

The new report will analyze hundreds of sediment samples taken by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in the late 1990s. An Ann Arbor, Mich., consultant, Limno-Tech, Inc., has been hired to coordinate the overall risk assessment of the pollution, Mr. Erichsen said.

Mr. Erichsen told the advisory group it is like cleaning up milk that has spilled in a kitchen. “We've been working on cleaning up the counter top [by focusing on waterfront landfills] the past 10 years. Now we have to clean up the floor,” he said.

Also at the action group meeting, Howard Pinkley, a longtime Point Place businessman and boater who serves on the advisory group, announced that a special account is being established to accept private donations for the proposed dredging project near the river's mouth.

By late January residents will be able to send donations to a Point Place bank branch that has agreed to set up the fund. The advisory group has made arrangements to refund all money donated, plus interest, if the project never materializes, Mr. Pinkley said.

More details will be announced later, he said.

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