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Great Lakes AOCs

Black River AOC

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Kristen Isom

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Originally called the “river of fish tumors”, the Black River in Ohio now boasts sport fishing, kayaking and tour boats eager to view the Great Blue Heron rookery. Since 2010, more than $23.5 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been used to fund 20 projects to remediate and restore this AOC

The Black River is in northern Ohio. In June 2015, the boundary of the Black River AOC was modified. The geographic extent is the entire Black River mainstem from Lorain to Elyria, the French Creek watershed, the Outer Harbor, and the nearshore of the Lake Erie area including two Lake Erie beaches, Lakeview Park Beach and Century Park Beach. 

The long history of industrial, agricultural and urban uses to which the Black River was subjected has left its mark.  Like most rivers that flow through or near the industrial heartland of the US, the Black River has been subjected to a variety of uses.  Rivers were suppliers of water, agents of commerce but ultimately unfortunate receptors of and conduits for wastes.  Discharges from the many industrial operations on the lower river contaminated river sediments with heavy metals and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from a now closed steel mill coking operation. The river’s aquatic habitats and fish communities were severely impacted. 

The impairments to the river have included:
  • poor water quality due toxic substances and bacterial contamination;
  • loss of biodiversity due to water contamination,
  • habitat degradation and sedimentation; and,
  • land use changes that have altered the river and its tributaries.
Sources for these impairments include:
  • municipal and industrial discharges
  • bank erosion
  • commercial and residential development
  • atmospheric deposition of contaminants
  • hazardous waste disposal sites
  • urban stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows
  • agricultural runoff from the upper watershed

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Beneficial Use Impairments

An interim success of remediation and restoration work is removing Benificial Use Impairments (BUIs).BUIs are designations created by the International Joint Commission, representing different types of significant environmental degradation.  As cleanup work is completed, and monitoring demonstrates sufficient environmental health improvements, BUIs can gradually be removed. The list below shows which BUIs have been removed, and which remain.  Once all BUIs are removed, the process of delisting the AOC can begin.

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption - Removed 2016
  • Eutrophication or undesirable algae - Removed 2016
  • Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Beach closings
  • Fish tumors or other deformities (in recovery)
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
More information:

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Remediation and Restoration Work

EPA has continually worked with federal, state and local partners to execute remediation and restoration work in the area with the ultimate goal of removing the AOC designation and revitalizing the surrounding communities.

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The following links exit the site Exit

  • Black River Advisory Committee (BRAC)
    In cooperation with the Black River Facilitating Organization (BRFO), BRAC is a unique community based public/private initiative involving participation from local citizens, township, municipal and county officials to state and federal agencies. 
  • Black River Facilitating Organization (BRFO)
    ​The BRFO identifies and focuses priorities within the Black River AOC, supports those agencies involved in restoration and remediation activities, facilitates public outreach activities, and promotes education about the river within the watershed. The BRFO raises funds, manages programs and projects, and coordinates and assists the Advisory Committee. The Black River motto is “Our River, Our Responsibility” and each member affects the many changes that have occurred throughout the AOC.
  • Lorain County 
  • Lorain County General Health District 
  • Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: Lake Erie Programs 

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