Good Thing: Keeping Raw Sewage out of Lake Erie

Last week, the US EPA and Department of Justice announced a $3 billion settlement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) to help keep untreated raw sewage from flowing into Lake Erie.

A bit of background: the agency is considered in violation of the 1972 Clean Water Act because of the sewage overflows that sometimes happen during rainstorms. (You can read more about the mechanics and science of how and why this happens here.) Cleveland isn’t alone in this problem; a number of Great Lakes cities discharge billions of gallons in sewage every year.

You can read the announcement here and more history and information about the EPA’s case against NEORSD here. You can also read about “Project Clean Lake” from NEORSD here.

The EPA estimates NEORSD discharges almost five billion gallons of untreated, raw sewage

approximately 3,000 to 4,000 times per year into Lake Erie and nearby rivers. The settlement will require the sewer district to spend approximately $3 billion to install pollution controls, including the construction of seven tunnel systems ranging from two to five miles in length that will reduce the discharges of untreated, raw sewage to approximately 537 million gallons per year.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports in this interesting and helpful Q&A this will  unfortunately  likely mean higher sewer bills for Cleveland and surrounding communities, tripling bills over 25 years in order for the District to be in compliance with the Clean Water Act. However, the project is expected to generate jobs.

As we’ve reported before, sewage overflows are a serious problem for the Lakes. A study in August recommended Great Lakes cities 1) separate miles of combined sewer pipes into sanitary and storm sewers and 2) install “green” infrastructure — such as rain gardens, vegetated roofs and pervious pavement — to capture and cleans this storm water and reduce the volume of storm water flowing off the landscape.



Filed under Editorial, Good Ideas, Great Lakes, Green Jobs, regionalism

5 responses to “Good Thing: Keeping Raw Sewage out of Lake Erie

  1. tonyg

    well, it amazes me; No comments here! Maybe it’s the christmas season but somehow we got to get serious about this sort of thing!

    3 Billion from the northeastern Ohio sewer district? Let do some math here. so say the sewer distict has 1 million people in it ( i made that up; but Ohio has ~ 8/9 million people total; besides it make the math simple) So, one million folks got to pay 3 Billion dollars over the next 25 years. So, that 3k per “head” for 25 years; That sounds like a manageable problem so to speak. So that’s roughly 9100 days of using the “facilities” you can see where I’m going here. So if the facilities were actually coin operated then on a per flush basis the debt is retired with the proper user carrying his/her proper cost. This is how we can fairly cover costs, and actually not have to drink our own mess! I leave the dailey, cost fees schedule for the reader to solve, but it is actually within our means.

    None of this is very pretty. None of this does the Dems, the Republicans nor teaparty speak about. This is the important stuff we all assume is taken care of. We have been failing to take care of this for a long while now…..

  2. Special K

    Thanks for the comments Tony G, I also was surprised by the lack of comments on this important story. This is something a lot of cities are going to have to deal with as our nation’s infrastructure continues to age.

  3. Mikey T

    Still have to believe that Erie is central to the growth and sustainability of the region. If Cleveland can convert that airport by CBS to some usuable space, Cleveland’s lake front could be something like Chicago’s, and hopefully attract more businesses.

  4. Paul

    The Akron sewer district has a similar settlement with the EPA. Its all good for water quality.

    The big concern I have is will it stick. Sewer bills will double and triple in some cases. Will the public be able to stomach the increases long term as the economy goes through peaks and valleys? Our government (Fed, State, local) will have to support this and the EPA. It will come down to public support and November elections. Some on the right have already called for demolishing the EPA.

    Do we want our water tested? Do we want it cleaned? Do we want clean air?

    Or do we just pretend there are no problems and say the EPA gets in the way of doing business?

  5. Laura Serrano

    My name is Raw Sewage Injustice! Without clean water ,soil and air we have nothing!Amazed the most important elements of life are taking for granted.I’m in the fight of my life,we no army behind me!

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