Guest post from Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Manager of Environmental Programs at Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
I am very excited about the 8th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference making its home in Cleveland this year. Cleveland is a great city with great people and organizations that care about the future of our greatest asset – Lake Erie. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (Sewer District) is no exception and I’m proud to be part of an organization who takes its responsibility to protect the environment seriously.
When you think of ‘protecting the environment’, the Sewer District many not be the very first organization that comes to mind, though. As someone who’s dedicated her career to environmental issues, however, I jumped at the chance for work for the Sewer District because their mission was and continues to be in line with my beliefs – we must protect our water.
Before I arrived in 2008, the Sewer District made significant improvements to the sewer infrastructure in Greater Cleveland. Throughout its 40 years of existence, the Sewer District enhanced its three treatment plants, and rehabilitated and improved its collection system. This is notable because most of that infrastructure inherited by the Sewer District in 1972 was built in the early 1900’s. Enhancements to its facilities continue today.
The most remarkable accomplishment, though, has been the Sewer District’s reduction in the volume of combined sewer overflows (CSO). In 1972, there were 9 billion gallons discharged into the environment, which, today, has been reduced to 4.5 billion gallons. But we know that there’s more work to be done.
In 2011, the Sewer District signed an agreement with the Department of Justice, USEPA and the Ohio EPA to further reduce the amount of combined sewer overflows entering Lake Erie and its tributaries. The plan, called Project Clean Lake, is a 25-year program designed to reduce the amount of overflow from 4.5 billion gallons to 500 million gallons.
I was part of the Sewer District team who negotiated the final agreement and I am so pleased with its outcome. The agreement includes the construction of seven large-scale tunnels, including the Euclid Creek Tunnel, which is currently being built.
The Sewer District’s team also negotiated groundbreaking language for the use of green infrastructure, a holistic approach to CSO control to improve water quality while ensuring green infrastructure benefits to neighborhoods. The addition of green infrastructure is notable because it gives the Sewer District the ability look for options to minimize the plan’s traditional infrastructure – pipes, storage tanks, and tunnels a maximize green infrastructure. With this provision to our plan we can look for multi-beneficial solutions that manage stormwater before it enters the combined sewer systems. Green infrastructure solutions not only add value to neighborhoods but they contribute to reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions and could reduce the long-term cost of the program while embracing the use of sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
Further, we will launch our Regional Stormwater Management Program in January 2013. Our program will protect and restore watershed function and provide comprehensive solutions to flooding and erosion throughout the four main watersheds in the Sewer District’s service area. We are thrilled that the Sewer District is the regional lead on addressing this problem.
Learn more about this during the conference. On Wednesday September 12 at 1:30, Frank Greenland, Director of Watershed Programs, and Kellie Rotunno, Director and Engineering and Construction, will talk about our CSO plan, including green infrastructure, and our Regional Stormwater Management Program. We will also offer a tour of five green infrastructure sites throughout Greater Cleveland. We invite you to attend the discussion and take advantage of the tour. Both will be informative, fun, and will give you a complete look into how we will be protecting our water for years to come.