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The Sound of Ideas

Cleaning Up Combined Sewer Overflow

Posted Tuesday, October 5, 2010

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Cleaning Up Combined Sewer Overflow When there's a heavy rain in Northeast Ohio, water can overwhelm old sewer systems mixing with sewage and sending it directly into Lake Erie. In Summit County it overflows into the Cuyahoga River. As disgusting as that might sound, the price tag for a fix might make you even more queasy. In Cleveland and surrounding cities, that means double the sewer bills to $240 per quarter. And if the EPA has its way in Akron that will seem like chump change. The cost of cleaning up our sewers, today on The Sound of Ideas.


Environment, Other, Community/Human Interest


Frank Greenland, Director of Watershed Programs, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
Rick Merolla, Director of Public Service, City of Akron
Mike Scott, Reporter, The Plain Dealer

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Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.

Noah 8:19 AM 10/5/10

I would suggest the Regional Sewer District provide low cost/free rain water collection barrels to all homeowners in NE Ohio.  They are very easy to install at the bottom of most gutter downspouts.  Businesses and new construction should be required to install rain runoff collection systems.  Rain gardens and using rainwater for irrigation would go a long way to help the combined sewer overflow problem as well as reducing water useage.

David Goodman 8:43 AM 10/5/10

We pay for cell phones, wireless internet access, and cable TV as though they were necessities, and yet when it comes to paying for one of the only true necessities, clean water, we complain about its cost as though it were a frill.  Thanks and kudos to the Sewer District for addressing the CSO problem and doing so effectively and economically.

Mitch Alvis 8:52 AM 10/5/10

The whole problem with CSO is that is combined.  The City knew these regulations were coming for decades and chose to keep the sewers combined.  Of course, the argument then was expense.  This problem was the EXACT reason the City was pushing the sale of the Water and Sewer to be privatized a couple years ago.  They wanted to allow the costs come to the consumer, but not accept the blame.  They knew they were coming, they said they have been working on them for years.  And with respect, the Service Spokesperson’s argument was flawed.  He can’t claim the ‘EPA recommended’ value of 2% and the ‘EPA recommended’ time frame of 19 years...then say that at the City’s following of 2%, the projects wouldn’t fall within the 19 year time frame.  That doesn’t make sense.

Sarah Taylor 8:56 AM 10/5/10

Have you mentioned that our water INTAKE crib is just a few miles out?
Also, some communities, including Chicago, are much further ahead in this area.  They’ve MANDATED downspout diversion.  Massive amounts of water have thus been diverted away from the sewer system

Linda 9:10 AM 10/5/10

Most cities have codes that preclude cisterns & require hard surface driveways &parking;lots.  NEORSD should educate about the benefits of both cisterns & gravel/other water permeable surfaces so codes can be updated.  Add rooftop gardens as well.

julie 5:47 PM 10/5/10

Hello?  Stimulus $$$?  Isn’t this type of expensive and hopefully long-lasting infrastructure improvement exactly what stimulus funds are for?

Jeannie Chapman 9:33 AM 10/11/10

Good morning.

Thanks for listening to the program. 

I wanted to respond to a couple of points:

- Noah - With the Stormwater Management Program, a program different from combined sewers that deals with erosion, flooding, etc., we will be giving credits to those (residents and businesses) who implement green practices, like rain barrel usage.  Also, we’ll host seminars, educating the public about green options in managing stormwater.

- Mitch Alvis - Since its inception in 1972, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has updated its sewer infrastructure.  Since then, we’ve been able to reduce overflows from combined sewers from nearly 10 billion gallons to about 4 1/2 billion gallons.  Again, this was through systematic upgrades to the sewer.  We believe that separating the sewers is not the best way to manage overflows.  Why?  1) It is not environmentally friendly. With combined sewers and structures like the Mill Creek Tunnel, we’re able to capture both sewage and rain water, and then treat it at the nearby wastewater treatment plant.  You wouldn’t get that same benefit with separate sewers; 2) separating the sewers would likely cost twice as much as building tunnels to capture the combined sewage and rain water; and 3) separating the sewers would be very disruptive to local communities (i.e. roadway closures, trucks, noise level)

Julie - The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has received stimulus money for other projects and we will continue to submit requests for funding of future projects.  Also, there are about 800 communities throughout the nation facing the same combined sewer issue.  The costs for those programs vary but a lot exceed $1 billion.  So, there would be a lot of competition for any type of available funds. 

If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me at chapmanj@neorsd.org or 216-881-6600.


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