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Report: Investment Needed to Solve Great Lakes’ Sewage Crisis

Billions of dollars of infrastructure investment are needed to stop untreated sewage from Great Lakes cities that flows into the Lakes, according to a study released earlier this month.

From January 2009 through January of this year, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Gary, Indiana, discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water into the Lakes, according to data analyzed by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

“The Great Lakes are under siege from sewage overflows,” Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said in a statement. “This report underscores that we have solutions to keep our beaches open, our people healthy and our economy growing. Inaction, however, will exacerbate a problem that is already very serious.”

These sewage overflows are one of the most serious problems facing the Lakes, the report states. Among the problems this pollution can cause- beach closures, harm to wildlife and damage to the tourism industry.

It recommends a two-pronged approach:
– cities must separate miles of combined sewer pipes into sanitary and storm sewers and
– installing “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.

The bad news? “Communities in the Great Lakes basin (are) facing a $23.3 billion tab. Reducing the incidence of (combined sewer overflows) to a level the EPA considers acceptable would collectively cost the cities of Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind., about $3.7 billion.”

The good news? This investment would be good for public health and the economy, with thousands of jobs created, according to the group.

Read the detailed, 40-page report for more information about sewer overflows and to see what different cities are doing to fix this problem.

-KG

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