5th annual RiverFest helps revitalize Mahoning River

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The 5th annual RiverFest this weekend brought together a ton of people, all to promote efforts to clean up the Mahoning River.

The festival is put on by the non-profit organization Friends of the Mahoning River, which works to revitalize the heavily-polluted water way.

The event combined fun, music and activities with environmental education, all to make people more aware of the 113 mile long river that runs through our Valley.

“If you’ve ever walked along the river, if you’ve ever gone fishing along the river, if you’ve ever paddled or kayaked you know what kind of serenity there is and just peacefulness you have from being in the environment,” said Patricia Dunbar, president of Friends of the Mahoning River.

Ron Kitchon with Friends of the Mahoning River said the river for a long time was a dumping ground for the steel mills in the Valley.

“It’s still one of the most polluted rivers in the state. The sediment is very bad from all of the pollutants that the mills dumped in during the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s,” Kitchon said.

One effort the organization is pushing is to get the river back in top shape by removing low-head dams.

“The low-head dams are what have collected the sediments and the polluted sediments. So, once those low-head dams are removed and sediments are removed, the river will be more free flowing. It will become healthier and it’ll go back to its pristine state,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar also said Lowellville in Mahoning County is the first city along the river to receive funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to remove their low-head dam. She said once that’s removed, they’ll keep moving up the river until they’re gone.

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