Lorain Geopool Facility on Track for Aug. 1 Opening

LORAIN — After a short bus trip through South Lorain, Lorain City Council members saw what will be the country’s first geopool facility of its size.

Nestled behind the hulking remains of Republic Steel, eventually, eight above-ground pools will be filled with a chocolate-milkcolored slurry of river water and sludge hydraulically pumped in from dredging the Black River once a year.

Once up and running next fall, the geopools will accept the slurry from the Army Corps of Engineers or contracted companies, allowing it to dry out in almost football-field-sized strainers.

A polymer, the same as what is used in the city’s water treatment process, will be pumped into the slurry, attaching to and sinking the small sediment particles while the newly cleared water flows downhill. The water will be treated again before flowing back out into the Black River, Storm Water Manager Kathryn Golden said.

Though during Monday’s field trip, the area was an expanse of gravel left behind by the former RTI Coke Plant, still a brownfield site capped by nearly two feet of clay and topsoil, it will be up and running by Aug. 1, she said — a requirement of the Ohio EPA funding used to construct the site.

“The city has no obligation to do this work,” Golden said. “these aren’t our rules, they’re not our regulations, but keeping the river navigable and keeping the port open is critical to the city, to keep the economy moving. So ensuring the river stayed open to these activities … building a facility is important to the city.”

The $19 million geopool facility is the latest in a series of $50 million investments to reclaim the site, Golden and Coldwater Consulting’s Kristen Risch said.

Coldwater Consulting has worked on the property for more than a decade through grant-funded projects, including the nearby Heron Rookery restoration and a fish habitat both along the Black River as part of the Area of Concern remediation and restoration.

Through a lot of those remediation projects, the areas around the geopools are under conservation easements moving forward, Golden said, meaning they must remain green space. The slag left behind under the caps is still contaminated with the waste materials of the long-defunct steel mill, limiting any further development.

Those projects helped improve water quality, helping the Black River AOC to be on track to be delisted by 2030.

The geopools were a necessity, Risch and Golden said. In 2016 the state disallowed dumping dredge materials into Lake Erie. Before that, sediment pulled from the Black River or mouth of the lake could be dumped farther out into Lake Erie to allow the area to remain navigable.

The property will operate on tipping fees paid to the city by the dredging companies.

The facility will be able to handle 75,000 cubic yards of sediment — enough to fill about 23 Olympic-size swimming pools. During the dredging process, that sediment will be combined with 60 million gallons of water.

The pools are designed so once the sediment is dry one of the sides can fold down and heavy machinery is able to access the dirt left behind — loading it up to be sold to farmers or used in construction projects.

The pools are expected to last about 15 years, with the city expecting to replace the liners annually, Golden said.

The facility will be managed by a third party selected through a competitive bid process, and there will be two city employees on-site.

City Council plans to return to the area in the spring once construction is further along.

As seen on The Chronicle.

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