Spotted: Putzfrau returns to the scene 50 years after Cuyahoga River cleanup work

The Putzfrau, a 56-foot fish tug designed by lifelong Greater Cleveland resident Frank Samsel, removed solid waste, oil, and petroleum products from the Cuyahoga River in the 1970s. Former FreshWater Cleveland managing editor Erin O’Brien thought the boat had long been retired from service and was no longer cruising the river.

But yesterday, Monday, Jan. 4, O’Brien spotted the “Cleaning Lady” in the Flats—back in service and going strong.

It turns out the Putzfrau has been called back to service by Phastar Corporation, a nonprofit Cleveland company dedicated to improving the quality of public services in Northeast Ohio. Phastar, working with the Port of Cleveland, West Creek Conservancy, and Samsel Supply, have restored the tug and it's back on the Cuyahoga serving as an educational vessel for Davis Aerospace and Maritime High School students learning about environmental science, engineering, and biology (while also performing trash removal).

Phastar and the partner organizations conducted a $250,000 fundraising campaign last year to restore the Putzfrau. While the boat is back at work on the Cuyahoga, you can read Bob Sandrick’s 2017 interview with Frank Samsel and learn about how the life of the Putzfrau all came to fruition right here in Northeast Ohio.