Between the early 1940’s’s through the late 1980’s the lower Ashtabula River and Harbor received contaminants from industrial facilities located along Fields Brook, a tributary to the Ashtabula River designated as a distinct Superfund Site (Fields Brook Superfund Site). Other activities, including historical ship building and scrapping activities, spills and accidents at adjacent rail yards, and bulk cargo shipping also contributed to contamination of the river in Ashtabula, Ohio. Principle contaminants included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated benzene compounds, chlorinated ethenes, hexachlorobutadiene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), other organic chemicals and heavy metals which migrated downstream from Fields Brook to the Ashtabula River and Harbor, contaminating bottom sediments, fish, and wildlife. More than 1,000,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment in the Ashtabula River and Harbor injured natural resources including but not limited to, fish, migratory birds, mammals, bottom dwelling organisms, and the food web they support.
In 2012, a combination restoration-based and cash settlement was reached with three distinct groups of Defendants, memorialized in one Consent Decree. The Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) included Cabot Corporation; Detrex Corporation; Elkem Metals Company L.P.; The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company; Gencorp Inc.; Mallinckrodt LLC; Millennium Inorganic Chemicals Inc.; Occidental Chemical Corporation; Ohio Power Company; Olin Corporation; RMI Titanium Company, Inc.; The Sherwin-Williams Company; Union Carbide Corporation; CBS Operations Inc. (ARCG II); Norfolk Southern Railway Company; Norfolk Southern Corporation; Conrail Inc.; Consolidated Rail Corporation (The Railroads), United States General Services Administration; United States Department Of Energy; United States Department of the Navy; and United States Maritime Administration.
The Ashtabula Trustee Council (Trustees) was established pursuant to the December 23, 1998, Memorandum of Understanding entered into by the U.S. Department of the Interior, (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (in an advisory role), planned and implemented restoration activities focusing in the Ashtabula River and throughout the Ashtabula river watershed.
ARCG II Projects included:
• Approximately 37 acres of vernal pool, wetland, and forested wetland adjacent to the Ashtabula River was deeded to the City of Ashtabula Township Park Commission for permanent preservation and use as a nature preserve. The restoration included reestablishment of a hydrological connection between the wetland and the Ashtabula River, removal of invasive plant species, planting of native wetland shrubs, plants, and trees, construction of an elevated boardwalk along the upland side of the wetland, a primitive nature trail, and construction of a canoe launch. Approximate restoration and implementation cost including the purchase of the property was $617,364.
• Approximately 342 acres (six parcels) adjacent to the Ashtabula River were purchased and placed under individual permanent Environmental Covenants protecting the land in perpetuity. No restoration was planned or implemented on the properties. The approximate cost of acquiring the properties and placing Environmental Covenants was $1,393,268.
The Railroads Project Included:
• At the Slip 5A Peninsula, Ashtabula, Ohio, 5.319 acres of upland and submerged property along the shoreline of the Ashtabula River was placed under an Environmental Covenant to preserve and protect the restoration area in perpetuity. The restoration included the removal and elimination of potential exposure pathways (primarily PCB contaminated materials), creation of emergent wetland, creation of a hydrologic connection between the Ashtabula River and Slip 5A, control of invasive plant species, planting of native plant and tree species, and stabilization and enhancement of the streambank with native vegetation.
Trustee implemented projects included:
• Placement of a Conservation Easement on approximately 52.3 acres of forested upland and riparian habitat adjacent to the Ashtabula River, held by a third-party land trust, to be protected in perpetuity. The approximate cost of placing the Conservation Easement was $93,100.
• Freshwater Fish Initiative – propagation, reintroduction, and monitoring of native wetland adapted fish species; the Lake Chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta), Blacknose Shiner (Notropis heterolepis), and Iowa Darter (Etheostoma exile) into wetlands adjacent to the Ashtabula River. In addition, the project includes the propagation, reintroduction, and monitoring of the spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus), into the Ashtabula River. This project began in 2022 and is ongoing. The approximate cost of this project is $314,400 over a period of 5 years.