Akron Waterways Renewed! Will Keep Sewage Out of the Cuyahoga River

Apr 5, 2019

The City of Akron is working to improve its 100 year old sewage system.

Dubbed Akron Waterways Renewed!, the project is federally mandated and aims to eliminate the discharge of sanitary sewage, which contains human excrement, into the Cuyahoga River. 

The Water Reclamation Facility.
Credit Rosalie Murphy

The problem stems from something known as CSO or Combined Sewer Overflow.   

Currently, water and sewage go into a combined pipe that empties into the Water Reclamation Facility. But when there is a heavy rain, the reclamation facility gets overburdened and the overflow discharges into the Cuyahoga River at 30 different spots. 

For an article in The Devil Strip, Emily Dressler explained that a court order to fix the CSO problem was issued in 2009. The work is costly, with a pricetag of $1.4 billion.

One aspect of the project involved creation of an interceptor tunnel, a sort of holding tank that can store the overflow, as much as 25 million gallons. A custom made tunnel boring machine, nicknamed Rosie, recently completed creation of the interceptor tunnel. 

An illustration of how sewage travels through the system.
Credit ROBERT LEDYARD

Ratepayers are covering the cost of the project, but as Dressler notes, "Over time they [the City of Akron] are spreading the increased rates out. Some of the loans that they have are zero interest, so of course that is a big help.”

All the work is to be completed by 2027. It is a lengthy and pricey process, but Dressler says it is past due. 

"I think this is something that needs to happen regardless of how much it costs. It has to happen."