Daniel Groves Environmental Geology Case Study November 22, 2011 Cuyahoga River Fires “In the United States, a concerted effort is underway to reduce water pollution and thereby improve water quality. ” (Keller) A case history of river pollution is the Cuyahoga River located in Northeastern Ohio. The river is 100 miles long flowing south to Cuyahoga Falls where it then turns north until it empties into Lake Erie. Cleveland and Akron are two major cities located along the river. The Cuyahoga is known as an infant glacial river, this is because it is one of the youngest river created from the melting of the glaciers.
It is estimated that the river is about 13,000 year old. The story of the Cuyahoga is one with many lows and highs. The fires being the lows; new legislation and organizations formed to clean up and then prevent this from happening to other rivers being the highs. The name “Cuyahoga” comes from Native American word meaning crooked river. The river was very useful to early Native Americans; it allowed for easy transportation and plenty of food. The river supported all types of wildlife that the natives would kill for their furs.
Just as the Cuyahoga was useful for Native Americans, the European settlers used it in many of the same ways. Early European fur traders may have played a large part in the demise of the Cuyahoga. Many hunters would set up trading post along the river. During the War of 1812 the Native American had been displace by the new settlers. The Cuyahoga River Basin was a desirable area for most settlers. The Founding Fathers knew that the area that is now Ohio would be of great importance. They knew that the Cuyahoga was the prime spot because the river empties into Lake Erie.
Soon large steel and rubber industries would build factories that produced tremendous amounts of untreated wastes. These industries are characterized by heavy manufacturing activity and an outflow of production. The pollution that was produced by these industries caused the river to be unsafe. The Cuyahoga River has had many fires over the years. The first fire in 1936 was rumored to be started by a blow torch spark. In 1952 a fire caused a million dollars’ worth of damage to river boats and riverfront businesses.
On June 22, 1969 another river fire engulfed the river, this time the media coverage captured the attention of the nation. Time Magazine described the Cuyahoga as the river that “oozes rather that flows” and in which a person “doesn’t drown but decays”. Many of the residents of Cleveland accepted the pollution as a necessary evil because they had jobs at these factories. This article helped the people of Cleveland pass a 100 million dollar bond to clean up the Cuyahoga River. Much of the industry that both made Cleveland rich and caused its river to burn may never be coming back.
The costs of these fires were tremendous, but it did help lead to laws being passed to prevent this from happening in other rivers. One such law was the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in which the US governs water pollution. The Act states the objectives of eliminating releases of high amounts of toxic substances into water. The CWA made it unlawful to dump toxic materials into navigable, waters unless given a permit. The permit is given through the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
The purpose of The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System is to regulate point sources that flow into bodies of water. The Clean Water Act has been changed over the years because of the development of technology. Another was the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a document constructed to keep the physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes and the surrounding regions. It also includes many objectives and processes to maintain the integrity that was outlined in the document.
According to the 13th biennial reports on Great Lakes Water Quality December 2006, “We further believe that such progress depends, to a very substantial extent, on whether the Parties and other levels of government, working together, create the means by which they can be held accountable for progress toward achieving the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. ” (Commission) Another Organization that was formed as a result of the Cuyahoga River fires is the “Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan” or RAP. RAP was created in 1988 by Ohio EPA as a community based program aimed at restoring the Cuyahoga River.
Their goals are to inform the community of the effects of pollution and to work with industries to stop the pollution of the river. “The RAP is a proven resource for bringing together technical knowledge, stakeholders and local officials in a supportive setting to develop and implement effective solutions for restoring our local streams. ” (Erie Brand Streams and Rivers) It is amazing how a river catching fire opens the eyes of so many people. It took Time Magazine to scare a nation into do something about individuals and companies dumping untreated waste into rivers and lakes.
When more people realized what these industries were doing to their hometown, they took action. Even though things for the Cuyahoga and the Great Lakes are improving there is still much to be done. Works Cited Commission, International Joint. 13th Biennial Report On Great Lakes Water Quality. 2006. Erie Brand Streams and Rivers, . “Operations and Maintenance. ” Epa. gov. CRCPO, Nov 2003. Web. 21 Nov 2011. <http://www. epa. gov/greatlakes/aoc/cuyahoga/ErieStreamsGuide. pdf>. Keller, Edward A. Introduction To Environmental Geology. 4th. Prentice Hall, 2008.