REGION School kids will participate in Mahoning River cleanup

Classes will study different aspects of the river and its role in the community.
GIRARD -- The Mahoning River Project is flowing into the classroom.
Pupils in Girard, Struthers, Warren and Youngstown city schools and Youngstown State University students will learn about the river through their classes and make recommendations for improving its quality. The effort kicked off Thursday at Girard High School and was attended by several state and local government officials.
"It's something I'm looking forward to," said Paul Cole, a junior at the school. "I think it's a good project."
"I think it's a great idea," added Dan Jamison, also a junior. "Everybody's always joking about how filthy it is."
All grades, classes: The project involves all grades and classes from biology, ecology and chemistry to math, social studies, art and language arts. Classes will study different aspects of the river and its role in the communities.
Science classes will examine plant and animal species indigenous to the river, said Ed Miner, a chemistry and physics teacher at the school. Math classes will look at storm drain runoffs and capacity.
Social studies and language arts classes will interview the mayors of Girard, Niles and Warren about the plans for the river in the respective cities, said Joseph Naples, a government teacher.
One of Mathew Jamison's classes will focus on Squaw Creek and how it relates to the Mahoning River. Mathew, a junior and Dan's twin brother, says he's looking forward to the work.
Rob Duebelt, a freshman, also is intrigued by the project. His ecology class will examine the plant and animal life around the river.
Garrett Welch, another junior, believes river restoration will bring more activities to the area.
State grant: Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers secured a $1.5 million state grant, which will be used as a match for a $1.5 million federal grant for a feasibility study for the river.
The study is to give a better idea of the cost of the project to remove contaminated sediment in the river base and banks.
Steels mills operated along the river from the early 1900s to the mid-1980s, discharging contaminants into the river. Since 1988, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has warned residents against any contact with the river sediment.
A 1999 study called for dredging 31 miles of the Mahoning, from north of Warren to the Pennsylvania state line. That project is estimated to cost $100 million and expected to take many years.
"The Mahoning River was once majestic, and it can be again," said Patricia Natali, president of the Mahoning River Consortium.
The organization formed six years ago with the dream of river restoration, she said. The river includes some of the worst contamination of any river in Ohio.
"Dredging and cleaning may take around 15 years, but I'll be here, and hopefully you'll be here too," Natali said.
Economic development: Sandy DiBacco, Struthers superintendent, said completion of the project would enable the community to develop economically.
Junior Dan Jamison believes the program should expand.
"I think more schools should also be involved," he said.

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