The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority may hire its own consultant to study whether any contaminants are leaking into Maumee Bay from Facility No. 3, its disposal site for river dredgings that in recent years has also accepted treated sewage from the city of Toledo.
While various reports have indicated no contamination from the facility, "we want a definitive conclusion that this is not affecting the waterway" if that's the case, William Carroll, chairman of the port authority's board of directors, said today.
"If there's an issue, we need to get out in front of it," said University of Toledo President, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, a member of the port board.
Mr. Carroll directed Paul Toth, the port authority's president, to seek out someone with proper expertise to do such a study.
Opie Rollison, a past port chairman, said the consultant should be "authoritative," echoing Mr. Carroll's call for a "third party" not otherwise involved in recent debate about the safety of both depositing sewage sludge at Facility 3, just over the Oregon city line on that city's bayfront, and later digging it out and re-using it as ground cover at the city landfill and several public parks.
Mr. Carroll raised the issue the morning The Blade reported on a letter U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) sent last week to a regional U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office in Chicago about it.
Forwarding a complaint from Toledo City Councilman D. Michael Collins to EPA, Miss Kaptur requested agency's "technical assistance and guidance" regarding whether the sludge disposal contributes to toxic algae blooms in Maumee Bay and Lake Erie, or later releases pathogens when placed elsewhere.
A spokesman for the EPA regional office was unable to confirm today that the letter had been received.
Dr. Jacobs said the port authority needed to get the best information available about the disposal site so the matter can be put to rest.
"We need to put an end to the ground noise on this, and it will cost us a little extra money," agreed James Tuschman, a fellow port director.
Board member Dick Gabel, who is also a vice president with the International Longshoremen's Association, was the only board member who questioned the need for a consultant.
"If there was something leaking into the water, my guys would see it," he said of the union's maritime workers.
Mr. Toth said after the port board meeting that should the federal agency decide to investigate, a port authority consultant's findings might be irrelevant. But he also said a consultant could be hired without an approval vote from the port directors, since the expense likely could fit within the agency's existing budget.
Earlier during the board meeting, port directors approved a $371,500 contract with Dunbar Mechanical, Inc., to install hot-water heating systems in three city of Toledo buildings now heated by a central steam system.
Dunbar was the second-lowest bidder when port officials opened bids in July for the design-build contracts at the city's Alarm, Safety, and Fire Station No. 1 buildings, but the low bidder, IPS Contractors, has since withdrawn from the projects. The Dunbar contract amount includes 10 percent contingency.