EPA argues removing Leavittsburg dam will improve water quality

Local News

Residents still have their concerns about flooding, health and recreation

LEAVITTSBURG, Ohio (WKBN) – There are nine dams along the Mahoning River that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has recommended be removed to allow for a free-flowing river that will continue to clean itself. One of those dams is in Leavittsburg but some of the people there are against removing it.

Residents are concerned about flood safety, health issues and recreation.

A crowd of about 75 people gathered in Warren Township Tuesday evening to hear about the EPA’s interest in removing the dam.

The EPA suggested water quality is worse with a dam.

“Whether it’s the Mahoning or Cuyahoga River, we have the same types of water quality issues because a dam is a structure and it alters a river’s behavior,” said Bill Zawiski, Ohio EPA supervisor of water quality.

During his presentation, he told the audience about similar work in the past.

He said a normal, flowing river can help wildlife and dams don’t affect flooding.

“All these dams that we’re talking about on the Mahoning are what we call low head dams, so they don’t offer any flood control,” Zawiski said.

He went on to say this will speed up the river, but alternating could expose some sediment.

“When the water goes down, it moves faster. It’s less stagnant so that is one less risk. Does the sediment get exposed and is that potentially a risk? If that sediment is contaminated, yes it is.”

The people who showed up had a lot of questions. Zawiski addressed concerns about recreation on the river, including some boating restrictions.

“The question was, if your pontoon boat is on the dam pool, what are the chances of it moving up and down once the structure is out? Probably very small,” he said.

Throughout the meeting, Zawiski told the crowd the dam is not going to last forever.

“Sooner than later, that dam is going to get blown up by the river because it is not a big, massive structure,” he said.

It’s up to the Trumbull County MetroParks to decide if the dam comes down. A member said no formal vote has taken place yet.

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