LORAIN — Black and gray snow around the Black River Tunnel construction site on East 14th Street illustrates project pollution, according to a nearby business owner.
Bob Fowler, owner of Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle at East 14th and Broadway, said he began noticing dust and debris in the snow in late November. Fowler said he complained to Health Department officials, who suggested he contact the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Fowler said he contacted the state EPA about three weeks ago but hasn’t heard back. Reached late Wednesday afternoon, Dina Pierce, an EPA spokeswoman, said she wasn’t aware of the complaint but would research it.
The $65 million project is designed to prevent untreated sewer water from flowing into Lake Erie, putting Lorain in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The tunnel will hold about 11 million gallons of water.
Work on the 5,562-foot-long concrete-lined tunnel, which is 180 feet underground and will be 19 feet in diameter, began in September 2012. It is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2015, according to employees of Arcadis, the international engineering company overseeing the project.
About 1,000 cubic feet of dirt and debris per day are removed daily.
On Wednesday, black and gray snow led down a hill by the construction site to Black River Wharf and the Lorain Port Authority building. Fowler, who opened his business in 2009, said he believes the dust and debris will hurt his business in the spring.
Fowler said some of his customers are elderly and have breathing problems that would be exacerbated by pollution. He said people who walk their dogs by the wharf have complained to him.
Fowler said it’s ironic that a project designed to reduce Lake Erie pollution may be increasing it.
“They’re dumping more dust and debris into the river than there would be in 10 years of (untreated) water,” he said. “It’s like they’re creating a problem they’re getting paid to solve.”
Daniel Markowitz, a scientist and project manager for Arcadis, said Arcadis is “very concerned” about health and safety.
“If there is a health and safety risk (complaint) that was valid, we would address it,” he said.