Sep 29, 2009

Ohio Bridge Project Protects Meander Creek Reservoir

Project includes innovative basin to keep spills out of reservoir that supplies 300,000 people

Construction was completed this month on a $91-million bridge and road project, which includes an innovative dirt and clay basin to keep hazardous spills out of a reservoir supplying 300,000 people, along I-80 in Mahoning County, Ohio, The Plain Dealer reported.

The $1.2-million containment project is a model of how to eliminate contamination of freshwater areas and wetlands from highway spills during accidents, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said. Shutoff valves contain the spills and prevent the substances from contaminating the 2,010-acre reservoir, which provides water to Youngstown, Austintown, Niles and several other Ohio cities.

"It's a straightforward solution," Joe Alfano, ODOT's construction manager, told the newspaper.

"We had so many accidents and spills [in the past]," said Andrew Frost, Austinburg chief since 1985. "I once had a tanker of gasoline floating in that lake. We were really worried because there are a lot of nuclear waste shipments and God knows what else going over this."

In the event of a hazardous spill, the fire department has a time window of 30 minutes to arrive and turn a valve to shut off the reservoir pipe.

"We need to safeguard our water from accidents occurring on I-80," said Tom Holloway, chief engineer of the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District. "Even salt and ash used on the road went into the water."