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Investing in the Mahoning makeover



Published: Sun, August 5, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


I’ve had the pleasure to live in a handful of cool towns, and one common trait in several of them is a natural water feature.

Elmira-Corning, N.Y., made great use of the Chemung River.

Rockford, Ill., is aggressive with its use of the Rock River.

I lived not too far from South Bend, Ind., where the St. Joseph River fed into an old shipping canal that was converted to a whitewater rafting park in the middle of the city.

And now I live here, where the Mahoning River is ... ?

It just is.

Among the many challenges we have in the Valley, one of them is restoring the Mahoning and making it a vibrant resource.

In 2011, The Vindicator teamed up with our news partners at The NewsOutlet at Youngstown State University to offer an extensive report on the river.

You can find the story on Vindy.com by searching “Mahoning River” and “By Caitlin Cook.”

Among the story’s offerings:

The river has been so contaminated that in 1988, the Ohio Department of Health warned against contact with sediments and fish consumption along the lower 28 miles of the river, which includes the area flowing through Youngstown.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a $500,000 study in 1999 and determined that regardless of how much the water quality improves over the years, the Mahoning cannot be deemed restored until the miles of contaminated sediments are addressed.

The nine major steel mills along the Mahoning were Republic Steel Corp. Warren plant; Republic Steel Niles plant; U.S. Steel Corp. McDonald Works; Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.’s Brier Hill Works; U.S. Steel Corp. Ohio Works; Republic Steel Corp., Youngstown; Youngstown Sheet & Tube Campbell Works; and Sharon Steel Corp., Lowellville.

The U.S. EPA reported that the average net discharge from those nine steel plants exceeded 400,000 pounds per day of suspended solids, 70,000 pounds per day of oil and grease, 9,000 pounds per day of ammonia-nitrogen, 500 pounds per day of cyanide, 600 pounds per day of phenolics and 800 pounds per day of zinc.

It goes on. In short, it’s a mess. And sadly, it’s seemingly abandoned in terms of who was shepherding its revival.

That’s why it was thrilling to read this past week in The Vindicator about the creation of the Friends of the Mahoning River.

They are just a group of five, but Patricia Natali is excited that after this week’s Vindy publicity, that will soon grow — just in time for two important August meetings.

One caller from Howland wanted to donate money. (Not ready yet.)

An elderly lady said she did not have any money but can contribute in other ways. (They’ll think of something.)

Another guy said call him when they get to the physical part. (They will.)

“There are a lot of good things happening now,” she said.

The group realizes it’s a long road, and they’ve launched two initiatives to start the march.

“Riverfest” will be their breakout event in October, and this Tuesday, the group will meet to continue organizing that event.

That meeting will be at the Austintown Library, and begins at 5:30 p.m.

“Riverfest,” said Natali, will serve to educate folks on the river and be an environmental call-to-arms of sorts for the river. It’s set for the B&O Station area.

The Friends also will meet Aug. 27 for more work on the overall organizing of the Friends group. That meeting will be at the downtown library.

We’re at a great period in our community. You’ll see me write this again this fall — it’s second time around for us.

First time was steel. Now it is energy.

As we grow into this new industry and the resulting riches, we need to properly position our community to benefit in a sustained and permanent way — draw positively as we did from the riches of steel without enduring the pains that the steel era left us.

One of the first steps with this second chance should be to invest in the Mahoning makeover.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


Comments

1block50(128 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

The first great era was steel. It ruined the river then went 'bust'. The next great era is energy. It will ruin our groundwater then go bust. No one with resources will look back to help clean the river in a meaningful way. In turn, the groundwater can never be cleaned once it has been ruined also. Profit is always king and the big money players are lionized as heroes until they disappear after the inevitable bust. As frightening as those river contamination figures are from the steel days, they will pale in comparison the what in being injected at high pressure into the shale formations and left to seep into our children's groundwater. 'Once bitten, twice shy' should be our watch word. But I'm afraid 'Take the money and run' will win the day, as usual.

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2chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

block50 fails to recognize that (1) now there are state and federal enviromental protection agencies and (2) proven drilling methods to prevent the contamination of the aquifers.

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3Broncoace67(13 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

It is great to see people organizing around this issue. The incredible amount of money it will cost to dredge the river will have to be provided by the government. The last estimate by the Army Corps of Engineers puts it at $150 million.Therefore we need everyone possible backing this initiative. Get involved with a cleanup, attend the Riverfest, attend rallies to garner politicians attention. We have to let them know how important it is to us that this issue be resolved. The steel produced here helped build this nation, and defend her shores, we owe it to the river to repair the damage done.

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4UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Take a look at little Poland Village and see how they came back to the waters edge and built an outdoor theatre and now a Farm market on Yellow Creek. While the uneducated talk about the Mahoning river and spend money after money on studies, this little Village went to work. Sadly, the City will obstruct any efforts to revitalize the river.

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5UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I had to ponder Franco's article overnight and as the saying goes, "the devil is in the details. First time it is steel. Now it is energy." Very true and astute, but herein lies more details. Unless the City becomes organized in dealing with the energy below us, the City will not realize the energy bounty. The Vindy failed to disclose that the only specialized urban energy company has pulled out of the City and is no longer leasing the urban lands.
Urban lands are difficult due to the configuration of thousands of smaller parcels. Not to mention 15000 parcels that are abandoned and tax delinquent, rendering them unleasable. With the thousands of public dollars invested in forming the new County Landbank Yemma has failed to implement this vehicle for these properties to be cleared for leasing, resulting in the departure of the energy company.
The millions ready to be invested into Youngstown lands will absolutely make monies available to address the Mahoning river, but again the municipality and local government is the biggest obstruction.

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