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Environment & Energy

Akron's Massive Sewer Project Goes Greener and Cheaper

A picture of tunnel boring machine nicknamed Rosie
KABIR BHATIA
/
WKSU
Rosie, the tunnel boring machine that's part of Akron's ongoing sewer project.

A plan to save $75 million on Akron’s massive sewer project is awaiting a federal judge’s approval, after changes were approved by the Akron City Council. 

Originally the plan to update the city’s sewer system to comply with the Clean Water Act by 2028 was going to cost $1.4 billion.

In 2016, the city dropped the price tag to around $1.2 billion through negotiating for 0 percent interest on a loan from the EPA and shoring up an existing sewer line.

Now Program Manager Pat Gsellman said Akron can save even more money by implementing what he called “green infrastructure,” man-made wetlands that filter water back into the ground before it ever reaches the sewer.

"The goal is not to have standing water. Because to be an effective wetland you’ve got the right soil, the soil’s hydrated, and you’ve got the right plants, Gsellman said.

A paving change
Additionally he said the city has been installing "permeable pavement" along certain parts of the project. 

"So it will look like it’s a brick-block street and the water just soaks down through it. And then in the intersections you’ll see little grassy-gravely areas where the water where will collect when it’s raining. And when it’s done raining, the water will soak down into the ground."

Gsellman said adding the wetlands and special pavement will save about $34 million.

Another $41 million in savings, he said, comes from switching to a more environmentally friendly and cost effective water treatment system that wasn’t available when the project was launched in 2014.

Though the changes have cleared state and federal EPA, there still a 30-day public comment period.