September 2, 2014

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280 volunteers pick up trash during Black River cleanup

Volunteers remove a huge tire during the second day of the second annual Take Back the Black (River) cleanup Sunday morning. The two-day project was spearheaded by the LoCo ’Yaks, a Lorain County kayaking group.  ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

Volunteers remove a huge tire during the second day of the second annual Take Back the Black (River) cleanup Sunday morning. The two-day project was spearheaded by the LoCo ’Yaks, a Lorain County kayaking group. ANNA NORRIS/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — They were willing to get dirty to clean up the Black River.

Some 280 volunteers took part this weekend in the second annual Take Back the Black cleanup, organizers said Sunday. Co-organizer Stephanee Moore said the turnout was comparable to last year, which was “amazing” because last year’s weather was better.

Last year, volunteers collected about 6.6 tons of debris. Moore said it is too early to estimate how much debris was collected this year, but she expects it will be similar to last year’s amount.

Moore and her fiancé, Robb Koscho, along with volunteer Josh Notley, are founders of the LoCo ’Yaks, a Lorain-based nonprofit kayaking and paddle sports group promoting boating. Kayak trips on the Black River, historically one of Ohio’s most polluted waterways, inspired them to organize the cleanup.

“When we take our friends out on the river, it was just so disgusting,” Notley said. “(So is) the label that the river’s carried for a long time as being so dirty.”

Decades of runoff of slag, residue of metallic ore from nearby steel plants, led the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Black River as an “area of concern” in 1990. Pollution remains a problem for the Black River and Lake Erie.

A 2012 report by Environment America — a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that analyzed federal Environmental Protection Agency data — found that among Ohio waterways, Lake Erie had the 10th-most toxins in 2010. The Black River ranked 31st.

The Ohio EPA recommends people eat only one meal of sport fish per week caught in Ohio waterways, including the Black River, because of heavy contamination of mercury, a toxic element. Sport fish include bass, trout and walleye.

Nevertheless, Notley said, cleanups like the one this weekend are making a difference. The cleanup is part of an overall restoration effort.

In 2012, Lorain received a $960,000 federal taxpayer grant to remove invasive plants and restore 30 acres of habitat in 2013 and this year. The grant was renewed this year for 2015 and 2016.

Environmentalists say birds, fish and wildlife that deserted the river have returned in recent years. Notley, 38, said he grew up near the river and has seen improvement.

Notley said the river should be a source of pride, and illegal dumpers need to be prosecuted. Among the debris hauled off Sunday from Black River Wharf were car parts, industrial barrels and tires. Notley said volunteers searched for names in mail and on the prescription pill bottles of trash they found to help track down polluters.

Notley said many Lorain-area residents have little awareness or appreciation of the river. “We think if they come down (to help clean the river), they would,” he said.

Besides the wharf, industrial-size trash bins were placed at Black River Landing, near the U.S. Steel Lorain Tubular Operations on East 28th Street and next to the Spitzer Park Marina on Lakeside Avenue. Organizers said local companies assisting included Chemtron Demolition of Avon Lake, which provided a small front-end loader, Diggers Excavating of Amherst, which provided a backhoe, and Republic Allied Waste, which provided the bins.

Robert Fowler, owner of Grumpy’s Bait Bucket, a bait and tackle shop at the wharf, said he’s grateful for the volunteers. He hopes the cleanup will inspire future efforts.

“It’s great for the river and it’s great for my business,” he said. “It’s a beautiful river. The more people who can enjoy it, the better.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

  • stillsleepyeyes

    Good job, it’s sad though I didn’t see anyone from the port authority or city hall helping in this event……………………..missed some great photo ops……..

    • Chef Rock Robbster

      The Lorain Port Authority was, for the second year in a row, a major sponsor. As cofounder of LoCo ‘Yaks and co-organizer of this event, we couldn’t have done this without the Port Authority’s help and support.

  • SniperFire

    ‘In 2012, Lorain received a $960,000 federal taxpayer grant to remove invasive plants and restore 30 acres of habitat in 2013 and this year. The grant was renewed this year for 2015 and 2016.’

    Rather mindless that Federal taxpayers have to foot the bill for this when we are running deficits which can never hope to be paid back, and when all of those European people are so willing to pitch in and clean up.

  • Sis Delish

    Is trash from that River classifies as “Black Trash”?

  • Phil Blank

    There was news in both Lorain’s papers, they wereinterving for paid jobs to work on the crew, but no 8ne ‘really’ applied.
    30 to 40 hours a week, I thing it was $10+ an hour, go figure.

  • Phil Blank

    Now that I think about it, just where do they think that huge, heavy tire came from?
    Where on the river was it actually found and who has access to that area?
    As for the smaller trash, with high winds and people ripping open trash bags looking for aluminum cans, that trash gets blowen all over the place, including the lake and the river.
    The other day, with binoculars, I followed a bright red heart shaped baloon fly from the west side, past the railroad bridge, come down and touch the Black River only to rise up and continue its flight east to places out of sight.

    • It has to stop

      After the rains and high river the last few months it was probably no where near where it was originally dumped.

  • Dan Gunderfell

    It is beyond sad that a low life, known steroid peddling adulterer is getting any exposure for his gym. He is scum and used to beat kids at his job with the county at the detention home! If this is news I am ashamed to call myself a lifelong Lorain resident.