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Environment & Energy

Akron Awaits Approval on Sewer Project Changes Designed to Save Money

Akron green storm water system design
The green design alternatives for the Akron sewer project rely on plants and soils to capture storm water and release it slowly into the sewer system.

Akron officials are awaiting approval from a federal court on proposed money-saving modifications to the city’s massive sewer project. The US and Ohio EPAs approved the changes last year.

Akron, like many cities across the nation, is under a federal mandate to update its infrastructure to stop old sewers from releasing combined storm water and sewage into the Cuyahoga River by 2028. 

Residents are paying for the $1.2 billion Akron Waterways Renewed! sewer project.

The city has worked to reduce the project costs by updating the designs approved under the 2014 consent decree, which Mayor Dan Horrigan calls one of the strictest in the nation. He spoke about it before a recent Akron Roundtable panel.

“Like anything else I think documents that you sign should have some sort of leeway in the future,” he said. “If you sign something now, what happens in 10 years if you have new technology?”

The latest proposed changes, which could be approved in about 30 days, could save millions of dollars in future loans.

“We’ve gone in front of the federal court to ask for amendments to those particular decrees because we think we can get to the cleaner water quicker and using green alternatives,” Horrigan said. “We’ll continue to push for those.”

The city’s green design alternatives rely on plants and soils to capture storm water and release it slowly into the sewer system. The design also would reduce the number of concrete storage basins needed, from three to one larger basin, eliminating ongoing maintenance costs.

The city says 65 percent of the 26 projects included in the consent decree have been completed.