The U.S. EPA today announced a new initiative to protect water quality by promoting the use of green infrastructure—rain gardens, trees, wetlands, green roofs, pervious pavement, and rain collection devices—to absorb storm water before it overwhelms community sewers, thereby preventing sewage overflows into local waterways.
The new initiative will partner with 10 cities – Cleveland is the only Great Lakes city on the list – to encourage the use of green infrastructure.
This is welcome news. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition strongly supports investments in green infrastructure to put an end to the sewage crisis here—and across the nation for several reasons:
There is a huge need to help communities stop sewage overflows. Reducing the incidence of combined sewage overflows to a level the EPA considers acceptable would collectively cost the cities of Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind., about $6.5 billion. A 2005 Great Lakes restoration strategy called for $14 billion to confront the problem.
The nation will never be able to build enough wastewater pipes and retention basins to hold the billions of gallons of untreated sewage which enter U.S. waterways every year. (More than 41 billion gallons of sewage and storm water overflowed into the Lakes in 2009, according to a coalition report.)
Green infrastructure solves the problem now, and prevents future problems by addressing the root cause of sewage contamination—storm water. Through absorption, re-use and evapotranspiration, green infrastructure deals with storm water where it hits the ground so that insufficient community sewers are not overwhelmed.
Green infrastructure is a smart investment that saves communities money. The city of Philadelphia, Pa., has saved more than $170 million through its investments in green infrastructure. That’s the kind of savings any municipality would welcome in these tough economic times. And they are. Cities such as Milwaukee, Wis., Chicago, Ill., Cleveland, Ohio, and others are staring to invest in green infrastructure.
In a press release announcing the initiative, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe said:
“Green infrastructure changes improve the health of our waters while creating local jobs, saving communities money and making them healthier and more prosperous places to raise a family and start a business.”
We couldn’t agree more.