News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

NOCHE

Knight Foundation


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Akron awaits massive sewer plan approval
Akron to spend $890m to prevent sewage from spilling into rivers.
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Senior Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
A CSO is marked along the Little Cuyahoga River
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Officials from the U.S. EPA, the City of Akron, and the Ohio EPA are all awaiting a decision by a federal judge that will determine the future of the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland.   Judge John Adams will rule on a deal reached by those parties to clean up the river.  WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports a settlement has been a long time in coming.

Click to listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:54)


(Click image for larger view.)

For more than a decade, the U-S EPA has been demanding that the city of Akron stop dumping raw sewage into the Cuyahoga River.  And for about a decade, the city has been offering plans to take care of the problem.

The problem is combined sewer overflows - or CSO’s- pipes that by design combine storm water runoff with raw sewage.  In a heavy rain, the sewer pipes can’t handle the load and it overflows directly into the Cuyahoga or the Little Cuyahoga.  Environmentalist David Beach with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History says they’re a legacy of systems built 70 to 100 years ago.

“In older cities and especially cities around the Great Lakes the old sewer systems were designed with one pipe that conveys both sewage and storm water.  It’s way too expensive to separate that system now but we can work to contain the overflows and treat them before they get into our rivers and Lake Erie, our drinking water supply.”

More than 770 cities across the country still have this old system of sewers.  Akron has 34 of the overflows.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District covering primarily Cuyahoga County has 126 of them, spilling into the Cuyahoga and into Lake Erie.  It’s begun a 3 billion dollar project to capture that waste in tunnels and treat it.  Akron has a similar plan that would cost about 890 million dollars.  Akron officials say about $270 million of that will be spent on updates they would have made regardless.  The cleanup plan was in an agreement with the state and federal EPA.  Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic:

“We worked with the Ohio EPA as the U.S. EPA’s designated agency and reached a very good deal.”

But in March of 2011, U.S. District Judge John Adams rejected the agreement because it would take too long to finish and did not set down specific dates for partial progress.  Plusquellic had been arguing with the EPA mandates for a decade only to reach an agreement and then have the judge throw it out..

“A federal judge can implement something over all the experts in Washington, three times now, and we’re still trying to meet his arbitrary requirements.”

Target zero
A member of Akron’s technical advisory board on this issue is Elaine Marsh of the environmental group Friends of the Crooked River.   While the city’s earlier proposals had suggested a limit on overflows, Marsh says they now agree to zero overflows

“The interesting thing about zero emissions is that no place in the country has as strict limits on the amount combined sewer overflow can contribute to a river system”

The new deal keeps the finish date at 2027 but nails down completion dates for many interim steps.  In an October hearing on the consent decree Judge Adams listened to the city’s construction consultant David Haywood describe the plan and then asked him “Can this schedule be shorter?”   Haywood replied “No, we wouldn’t be able to reach zero overflows.”  The judge then questioned the engineer’s plans on what section to tackle first and in what order catch basins will be built along the two rivers.

Capturing waste water for later treatment

The city will build ten more storage basins and two huge tunnels to collect storm water. The first will be over a mile long and start near Children’s Hospital.  It will capture over 25 million gallons and empty it into a new treatment plant to be built near the confluence of the Cuyahoga and Little Cuyahoga rivers. 

Akron will also pay $500m in fines plus another $900m that is earmarked for the project to remove the Brecksville Dam in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

Even without the judge’s OK and a final agreement,  Akron has been building storage basins to alleviate the problem.  One called Rack 40 has eliminated about one third of the overflows to the river.  Something that Marsh has noticed while canoeing.

“I no longer any infections in my finger nails which may have been related to the very high bacteria content in the river.”

Much higher sewer rates
Whenever a final agreement is reached, sewer rates are sure to rise dramatically.  City officials once predicted they’ll quadruple.  Plusquellic recently said they’ll go up 2 to 2 ½ times.  

David Beach argues the sewer rates aren’t that large compared with many monthly bills and he says both Akron and Cleveland need clean water.

“The great cities of the world that are moving forward are aggressively dealing with their environmental problems and successful cities will be clean and sustainable in the future.”

And as Elaine Marsh remarked, it’s important to build infrastructure right the first time because they’re very expensive and difficult to retrofit. 

Listener Comments:

Happy to learn Akron is finally cleaning up the Little Cuyahoga. Akron is finding itself at the cutting edge of urban planning as environmental restoration is becoming a means of redeveloping the central city. I lookforward to visting and seeing the progress!


Posted by: Steven Lemle (Santa fe mn) on February 2, 2013 9:02AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

A small group of tea party and Democrats protest at Kasich campaign stop
Enjoyed your excellent coverage of the statehouse for sometime now, never dreamed I'd be on. The feedback from people has been great. Thank you. Doris Adams

Top staffers are leaving the FitzGerald gubernatorial campaign
I's too bad that the dirt on Fitzgerald dug up by Kasich's operatives and publicized heavily by the Yellow Plain Dealer has caused the weak staffers of the Fitz...

Churches come together to welcome and include Gay Games athletes
Nicely done!!! A little known fact about the El Salvadoran and Columbian scholarships.. A big thank you to the Faith Community for their support of Gay Games 9....

What do Ohio farmers need to do to control Lake Erie problems?
This was a great article, thank you, Karen Schaefer. There was an error- Roger Wise is the past president of the Ohio Farmer's Union; not the Ohio Farm Bureau ...

Registration for the 2014 Gay Games ends Monday at midnight
Judy Benson and Sally Tatnall are loved and appreciated by all in our community and throughout the US for their untiring work for OLOC and for educating the com...

Like any family, the Gay Games has its generation gaps
Great article ... important perspective.

Gay Games rodeo: Changing stereotypes
Robin, Thank you for a fine piece of recorded history. This is history in the making; a gay, Asian man, one of the last bronc riders in IGRA, and Rodeo at Gay G...

Ohio lawmakers hold hearing on prison food problems
So you fine them..this has been going onand the law makers are aware of this issue.I have been told by many about the maggots and rotten food not fit for a dog ...

Interview with early Beatle Pete Best
"the Leshdu (?) Quartet.." Actually that's the Les Stewart Quartet. George Harrison was in that band at the same time as the Quarry Men.

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University