The historic Cuyahoga River of Ohio has improved enough to see an easing of restrictions on the consumption of fish from its waters.

The Cuyahoga River of Cleveland is famously known for having caught fire in 1969. What is not so well known is that this river had caught fire numerous times prior to the Time’s article showing the state of the river. For not only Cleveland but the state of Ohio, the Cuyahoga River Fire has become the go-to cautionary tale of why the dumping of chemicals into waterways has negative effects. The video done by the Cleveland State University Department of History Center for Public History + Digital Humanities depicts the state of health the river was in.


As of 2018, the Ohio EPA was asking the U.S. EPA to ease the restriction of fish consumption from an area of the river that has been recognized as an Area of Concern (AOC). The request made was based on samplings of the river fish’s tissue that indicated major improvements to the health of these fish. The restriction that was in place is what known as a Beneficial Use Impairment or BUI for short. As of 1992, the Cuyahoga River was found to have 10 BUI’s that needed to be addressed. The amount remaining of BUI’s in 2019 for the river is seven, which still means there is work to be done but however does mark an indication the water quality of the river is getting better. As mentioned by Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, with the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire approaching reflecting on the progress that has been made within those years is something that should be done.

This key milestone for both the Cuyahoga River and Ohio, indicates reflecting on changing the narrative in which the river is used in. Instead of being purely a tale of the destruction, it can perhaps become a tale of redemption. With the combined efforts of local, state, and federal partnership, the river that once burned and killed anything that fell in, is now one full of life and small successes.


Michael Rotman, “Cuyahoga River Fire,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 14, 2019,

Ohio EPA News Releases. (2019, May 03). Retrieved from

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