The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is beginning a new series of tests on the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls.
The agency intends to collect 22 additional core borings of sediments in the 34-acre reservoir behind the Ohio Edison Co. dam.
The research vessel Mudpuppy, a 32-foot-long, flat-bottomed EPA-owned vessel, was lowered via crane into the river Tuesday morning, along with a support boat.
The agency intends to collect the additional samples by the end of the week, the EPA said.
In September 2009, the EPA had collected some core samples from the reservoir in the Gorge Metro Park.
The agency had collected only 28 samples, not the 45 that had been planned. Additional sampling was needed because the volume and the depth of the sediments was greater than expected, officials said at that time.
Those tests revealed moderate levels of contamination but no major toxic problems, officials said.
The first tests indicated the average depth of sediments in that section of the river is about 9.3 feet, according to EPA reports.
The new tests — being paid for by the U.S. EPA — are needed before any decisions can be made on perhaps removing the Ohio Edison Co. dam to improve the flow and water quality on the Cuyahoga River.
The Ohio EPA has been pushing for removal of the dam.
Akron’s FirstEnergy Corp. has said it would like to see the dam used for environmentally friendly power but is willing to go along with removal if the Ohio EPA decides the dam must go.
The dam is 68 feet tall and 429 feet wide.
Preparing a feasibility study on removing the dam could cost about $500,000, and federal funds could cover that cost.
Removal of the dam has been estimated to cost $5 million to $10 million.
The sediment disposal at the bottom of the 1.5-mile-long reservoir is estimated to cost $15 million to $20 million for removal — with federal funds covering 65 percent of those costs.
The local share could be covered with in-kind services and contributions from state, county and local agencies plus FirstEnergy Corp.
The dam was built in 1911-12. It generated electricity for trolley cars. The reservoir provided cooling water for the coal-fired Gorge Power Plant, now closed and razed.
The hydro facilities shut down in 1958. The power plant closed in 1991.
Dams in Kent and Munroe Falls have been altered or removed to boost water quality on the Cuyahoga River. The city of Cuyahoga Falls is planning to remove two additional dams. Planning is under way to remove a third dam on the river near state Route 82 in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.