By danny restivo
Village officials are hashing out a plan to remove a river dam and the industrial remnants around it.
Mayor James Iudiciani said the village is working with MS Consultants, an engineering firm based in Youngstown, to remove a dam and sediment along a 2.3-mile stretch of the Mahoning River embankment.
“This project will allow people to enjoy the river even more,” said Iudiciani. “Right now, you don’t want your kids going anywhere near that river.”
The cleanup plan comes on the heels of an announcement from state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman. He said a tentative $2.38 million grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is earmarked for cleaning up the river. Schiavoni made the announcement last week at a meeting of the Friends of the Mahoning River, an advocacy organization for the cleanup of the industrially polluted river.
Iudiciani said an estimated 40,000 cubic yards of heavy-metal sediment needs to be dredged from the river. He said removal of the dam would cost around $200,000, while a majority of the grant would be allocated to dredging along the river’s banks. He said it costs $30 per cubic yard to remove the contaminated soil, equaling a $1.2 million price tag for the collection.
The dams are an artifact of the steel mills and other industrial facilities, which used to line portions of the Mahoning River. The dams were built to accumulate large pools of water for use in the plants. The water was pumped in to cool industrial equipment before being released back into the river without being treated.
Gary Diorio, a project manager with MS Consultants, said the project team is following recommendations that originated from a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2006. He said the project still is in its infancy, but he envisions using large vacuums to remove the contaminated soil from the riverbed.
Diorio said the contaminated soil would be pumped into large bags before being drained of water. The water then would be treated at the waste- treatment facility before being pumped back into the river.
“This is all part of the general plan that needs to be sent to the Ohio EPA,” said Diorio. “This is going to be a step-by-step process.”
Iudiciani said the city also is seeking $50,000 to $65,000 in additional grants from the Ohio EPA’s Surface Water Improvement Fund.
He said the city is hoping a clean river will spark more recreational activities, such as kayaking, canoeing and fishing. He said Lowellville may set the template for other river-cleanup efforts in Campbell, Struthers and Youngstown if his village is successful.
“This is the first time the state has given us money for something like this,” said Iudiciani.
“They are starting here because it’s going to take less money, and we have a good chance of success,” he said.