Jump to main content.

Black River

Contact Information

U.S. EPA RAP Liaison:
Danielle Green
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
77 W. Jackson Blvd. (G-17J)
Chicago, IL 60604

State RAP Contact:
Ted Conlin
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Northeast District Office
2110 East Aurora Road
Twinsburg, OH 44087

Local Coordinators

RAP Chair
Jill Lis, RS (jlis@loraincountyhealth.com)

RAP Secretary
Stephanie Lesco

Lorain County General Health District
9880 South Murray Ridge Road
Elyria, OH 44035


Frequent Acronyms

You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

Black River AoC Boundary Map

Black River AOC Boundary Map (PDF) (1pg, 604K)

Black River shape file (ZIP) (17K)


The Black River is located in north-central Ohio and drains over 467 square miles (1,210 km2) of land. Although flowing primarily in Lorain County the watershed does include drainage from Medina, Ashland, Huron and Cuyahoga Counties. Fifty-one percent of the land within the AOC is used for agriculture, while only 1% is truly industrial. Between these two extremes are rural (38%), urban residential (7%) and commercial land (3%). Over the past few decades, water and sediment quality have improved in the Black River. The contaminated sediments were remedially dredged and impacts from point sources (factories, waste water treatment plants, etc.) have been significantly reduced. Now, the Black River, like many major rivers across the country, is being threatened by major nonpoint source impacts coming from the entire watershed. These impacts are caused by the way the landscape is used for urban, suburban and rural activities. Land disturbances associated with high residential growth rate and intensive agricultural practices are a particular problem. The predominately agricultural sub-basins in the upper Black River watershed are witnessing more than 20% of their land eroding at a rate of 5 tons/acre/year or more. Over 17,000 acres are eroding at "excessive" levels in these areas with cropland accounting for 82% of this number.

Properly managing urban, suburban and rural land use practices throughout the Black River Area of Concern including the enhancement and protection of the riparian corridors and wetlands will improve the quality and productivity of this valuable natural resource.

Originally, the Black River Area of Concern (AOC) only included the lower mainstem. This stretch was designated an AOC because discharges from the many industrial operations on the lower river had contaminated the river sediments with heavy metals and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The PAHs came from a steel mill coking operation that had closed a decade earlier and had severely impacted the health of the resident fish communities. Around the Great Lakes, the Black River was known as the “River of Fish Tumors.”

During development of the RAP Coordinating Committee, a decision was made to expand the Area of Concern to include the entire watershed in order to address the impacts and pollutant loads coming from the upstream areas. Of the four RAP areas located in the State of Ohio, the Black River is the only Area of Concern (AOC) that encompasses an entire watershed.

Top of page

Beneficial Use Impairments

In the Black River Remedial Action Plan Stage 1 Report, the RAP Coordinating Committee identified several beneficial use impairments in the Black River AOC. The Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems use impairment was listed as Unknown because of a lack of available local data concerning this beneficial use. The Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations was listed as Unknown because the RAP felt there was insufficient protocol for the determination of impairment status for this beneficial use.

For further information and details on all of the BUIs, see a corresponding Black River AOC Beneficial Use Impairments (PDF 83Kb 3 pages) document and the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) documents listed in the Significant RAP Milestones section below.

Top of page

Delisting Targets

The Black River RAP has adopted the Delisting Targets for Ohio Areas of Concern (PDF 1.70Mb 85 pages) Exit disclaimer (PDF Ohio EPA, June, 2005).

Top of page

RAP Development and Status

In September 1991, the Ohio EPA director appointed a local planning group to assist the Ohio EPA in the preparation of the Black River RAP. This local planning group, named the Black River Remedial Action Plan Coordinating Committee (PDF 29Kb 1 page), (BRCC), includes members representing local public agencies, state and federal agencies, industries and private commercial groups and citizen representatives. The BRCC was to develop the Black River RAP and submit it to the Ohio EPA for subsequent submittal to the International Joint Commission. The BRCC was given a plan development role, not simply a public advisory role. The Black River RAP Stage One Report was completed in April 1994. The Black River RAP Strategic Long Range Plan (Stage Two Plan) was completed in March 1997. Preparation of the Black River RAP Annual Reports are done by the BRCC noted above, with assistance from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), which provides secretariat and planning support to the RAP. The Ohio EPA also provides planning support to the RAP. The RAP chair resides with the Lorain County General Health District. Technical and implementation work is conducted through various work groups established around specific issue areas. The Black River RAP has been identified by the International Joint Commission as a Great Lakes Area of Concern “Beacon” where notable achievements resulted in real progress.

Top of page

Significant RAP Milestones

Top of page

RAP Implementation

Recent progress and achievements

The Black River RAP Awards:

Current projects and outlook

Properly managing urban, suburban and rural land use practices along the Black River through protection of the riparian corridor will improve the quality and productivity of this valuable natural resource. Recognizing that land use practices differ in each area of the watershed, the Black River RAP has been attempting to establish small sub-watershed groups. The Black River RAP/U.S. Army Corps partnership have completed a French Creek sub-watershed habitat survey and produced a French Creek specific handbook that was mailed to landowners and decision-makers. In 2003, a similar project has started in the northern East Branch sub-watershed. Currently, the entire Black River AOC suffers from bacterial contamination, especially after storm events. The City of Elyria has been working to relieve the effects from discharges from combined sewer overflows and the Lorain County General Health District has started an inspection, operations and maintenance program to address impacts from old, failing and failed home sewage treatment systems (HSTS).

The Black River RAP and its community partners have been making a difference. Through the support of the Riparian Corridor Resolution and through various education programs, the Black River RAP and its community partners have fostered a new and heightened awareness to protect this area.

Top of page

RAP-Related Publications

Top of page

Community Involvement

The Black River RAP is a unique community based public/private initiative involving participation from local citizens, township, municipal and county officials to state and federal agencies. The Black River RAP motto is “Our River, Our Responsibility” and each RAP member has taken responsibility to help affect the many changes that has made this organization so successful.

Recognizing that land uses and proper stream stewardship are better directed at a local level, the Black River RAP has been directing considerable effort toward the development of small sub-watershed groups. These groups can affect more changes in the neighborhoods and communities of their subwatershed. Through the efforts of the Lorain County Community Development Department, a group of concerned individuals has been formed in the predominately agricultural West Branch subwatershed. The Black River RAP is trying to form another group in the rapidly developing French Creek subwatershed.

Top of page

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.