The Ashtabula Harbor is a significant Great Lakes Harbor. Commodities such as limestone, iron, coal and other bulk commodities regularly transit the Harbor. The Ashtabula River, downstream of Fields Brook, was heavily contaminated with hazardous substances including PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals. Sources included industrial facilities located along Fields Brook, as well as historical ship building and scrapping activities, spills and accidents at adjacent rail yards, and activities associated with bulk cargo shipping.
Fields Brook, the source of much of the contamination in the Ashtabula River, is on the National Priorities List (NPL) of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (Superfund) and has been remediated under that authority. Fields Brook is a small tributary entering the Ashtabula River from the east at approximately river mile 1.8. Manufacturing along Fields Brook, ranging from metal fabrication to chemical production, has occurred since the early 1940s. The decades of manufacturing activity and waste management practices at industrial facilities resulted in the discharge or release of a variety of hazardous substances to Fields Brook, which have migrated downstream, contaminating the Ashtabula River and Harbor Site. The consent decree was signed July 12, 2012 and restoration activities continue. Restoration activities are nearing completion with over 300 acres purchased and placed under environmental covenants for protection of wetland, riparian, and woodland habitat along the Ashtabula River. A 37 acre parcel has been restored to a vernal pool, wetland and forested wetland adjacent to the Ashtabula River and deeded to the City of Ashtabula Township Park Commission for preservation and use as a nature preserve. The restoration included planting of wetland shrubs and plants, trees, construction of a boardwalk along the wetland, a primitive nature trail, and a canoe launch.