The Cuyahoga River, made famous by its troubled history of industrial pollution and spontaneous fires, lies at the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Although much healthier than forty years ago, some sections of the river remain on the list of impaired waters as established under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. Portions of the Cuyahoga River Watershed, including the section of river that travels through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, have been classified as one of the 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern, necessitating the development of a Remedial Action Plan (RAP).
The Cuyahoga River RAP committee works to plan and promote restoration of beneficial uses, such as fishing and canoeing, of the lower Cuyahoga and near-shore Lake Erie through remediation of existing pollution problems and prevention of future ones. Click here to visit the Cuyahoga River RAP website.
Beneficial use impairments were identified in the Stage One Remedial Action Plan. Stage Two, implementation and restoration of beneficial uses, is only partially completed. Extensive research and monitoring by numerous agencies have been funded to improve understanding of water quality impairments within the watershed. Currently, impairments to the water quality of the Cuyahoga River are being addressed under the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. A TMDL is a written, quantitative assessment of water quality problems in a water body and contributing sources of pollution. It specifies the amount a pollutant needs to be reduced to meet water quality standards, allocates pollutant load reductions, and provides the basis for taking actions needed to restore a water body. The TMDL for the Cuyahoga River is divided into three sections, the upper, middle, and lower Cuyahoga. The section of the river that flows through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is considered part of the lower Cuyahoga.
The park hopes to gain a better understanding of the ability of indicator organisms to predict the presence of human pathogens and, consequently, risks to human health. This information will improve our understanding of waterborne pathogen occurrence and assist the NPS in making informed decisions about the water quality in the Cuyahoga River.Visitors should still be warned to use caution when contacting Cuyahoga River water. While water quality has steadily improved over the past 40 years, contaminant and bacteria levels can still be high, especially after periods of rain.
For more information on Cuyahoga water quality and advisories, click here to visit the FAQs page.
Read the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) fact sheet on water quality work at CVNP. Click here to read Escherichia coli in the Cuyahoga River within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Click here to visit the USGS website for a direct link to all kinds of water information. Here you'll find information on Ohio's streams, ground water, water quality, and many other topics.