Twenty years after signs went up along the Ottawa River warning people to avoid contact with its waters and not to eat the fish, conditions have improved so much that the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department said the signs could come down where the river flows through the main campus of the University of Toledo. At a ceremony at UT, groups that have worked to improve conditions celebrated by removing the warning signs.
“It's easy to forget how far we've come till you take a fresh look at where we were 20 years ago,” said Kurt Erichsen, vice president of Environmental Planning at TMACOG. He referenced an article from the Toledo Blade from 1994. Erichsen was particularly cited during the ceremony as a person whose commitment led to improvement in water quality.
“The Ottawa River that flows through The University of Toledo Main Campus is an important part of our University and we are pleased to see the health of the river improve and the advisories lifted,” said Dr. Patrick Lawrence, UT professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Planning and chair of the UT President’s Commission on the River.
The health of the river has improved because of a broad approach to water quality improvement: regulations including the Clean Water Act prevent industry from using the river as a disposal site, builders and farmers now routinely plant buffer strips in the riparian borders, stormwater management has improved, and a huge dredging operation completed in 2011 removed tons of contaminated sediment from a section of the river near Lagrange and Detroit.
Work continues to protect water quality in the area’s rivers and lakes. Concerned groups and TMACOG partners include Partners for Clean Streams and the Maumee RAP, as well as elected officials and government agencies.
See the map related to fish advisories.
Cherie Blair from the Ohio EPA, and Dr. Hans Gottgens and Dr. Patrick Lawrence both from the University of Toledo, remove a warning sign on the UT campus