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Akron says it's making progress with the EPA on green sewer alternatives
First phase of changes could save the city $10 million and be a model for bigger changes to come

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M.L. Schultze
Combined sewer overflows were designed a century ago to handle heavy rains by combining storm water and sewage. More than 700 cities are working on solutions.
Courtesy of WKSU file photo
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Akron will miss its self-imposed deadline this week to submit plans to convert part of its massive sewer overhaul to greener alternatives. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports on why the city says the delay is actually a sign of progress.

LISTEN: Mongtomery on the variety of alternatives

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LISTEN: What green can mean

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LISTEN: Montgomery on multiple possibilities

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Akron is one of more than 700 cities trying to deal with a design flaw created a century ago: When there’s a heavy rain, storm water mixes with sewage and the overflow flushes into lakes and rivers. The city has signed a billion-dollar-plus deal with the U.S. EPA  --  overseen by a federal judge -- to build new tunnels and storage basins to eliminate the overflows.

But it wants to convert phases of the project scheduled to start next year to what’s called green infrastructure… things like raingardens and porous pavement.  Deputy Public Service Director Phil Montgomery estimates that could save the city some $10 million. 

“It’s a better environmental solution at a more affordable cost, which is the goal of the Akron Waterways Renewed program.”  Montgomery says the EPA could approve the smaller changes unilaterally and appears receptive. Bigger changes -- which could be modeled on these -- would require an OK from the judge as well. 

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