(WKBN) – A new look at Ohio’s rivers shows improvement.

Twenty-nine of the state’s largest rivers were studied but not the Ohio River. The only river included locally was the Mahoning River.

The rivers survey by the Ohio EPA was done in 2020 and 2021. The idea was to measure changes in water quality since the 1980s.

“This survey shows that our surface waters are making improvements in leaps and bounds,” said Stephanie Dyer, with the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

The state says rivers have improved dramatically. Eighty-six percent ow have water quality that is is good to excellent. During the 1980s, only 18% passed the test.

People kayak now in the Mahoning River, and there are others who do some recreational fishing in the water. The Mahoning River has a legacy from when steel was king here, and heavy metal concentrations remain in the sediment.

“Once they use the water in the steel mills and put it back into the river, those remained in the sediment, settled at the bottom. So those are still there, and they’ll be there until we can take it out,” Dyer said.

Those area are hotspots. Oils, greases and hydraulic fluids have binded to sediment and do not dissolve in water, but they can flow away naturally as the water is opened and let the river heal itself.

The Lowellville and Struthers dams have been removed. Seven more dams will come out between Leavittsburg and the state line. The numbers have improved among the bugs and fish in the water.

“That’s what helps them interpret whether water quality is getting better or worse. It’s not just necessarily the chemical aspect of water quality, but it’s that microhabitat that’s one of the takeaways,” Dyer said.

The Friends of the Mahoning River had high praise for what’s happening in the water and on the shores. It said the removal of contaminants and the creation of public spaces will significantly contribute to the overall health of the Mahoning River Watershed, benefiting both human and aquatic life.