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Comeback of the Cuyahoga River
On the 40th anniversary of clean-up, the once burning river rebounds

Karen Schaefer
Courtesy of (left)Courtesy of: Special Collections Librarian, Cleveland State University Library (right)Karen Schaefer
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Forty years ago today in Cleveland, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. It wasn't the first time the river burned, but it was the last. The fire sparked public outrage across the nation and drove Congress to pass the Clean Water Act. Since then there've been years of clean-up. Where vacuum boats once sucked up oil spills, boating clubs now enjoy an evening rowing on the river. The Cuyahoga is so much cleaner, state officials have applied to take parts of it off a list of the most polluted Great Lakes waterways.
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This photo of the burning Cuyahoga River is from 1952 - the 1969 fire was considered so minor local newspapers and television stations didn't cover it.
Today the Cuyahoga River is an icon of how a natural resource tainted by years of industrial and municipal pollution can be restored to health.
Captain Wayne Bratton of Trident Marine is the skipper of the Holiday, a 60-foot charter boat on the Cuyahoga.  He's worked on the Cuyahoga For more than 50 years
Frank Samsel, now retired from Samsel Supply, created the vaccum boat used to clean up the Cuyahoga, which he called the Putzfrau or housekeeper.
Ohio EPA biologist Steve Tuckerman (left) grew up on the Cuyahoga and has worked on restoring it to Clean Water Act standards for 32 year.  He'll retire next month.  Ohio EPA biologist Kelvin Rogers has spent 30 years working on clean-up.  He heads the Cyahoga River RAP, the community group founded in 1988 to continue restoration.

Related Links & Resources
US EPA, Stories from the Cuyahoga River

Western Reserve Rowing Association

Delisting the Cuyahoga River

Green Bulkheads on the Cuyahoga River (PDF)

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