Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What is 'The Future of Water'?

A new exhibit now underway at Krohn Conservatory highlights Project Groundwork, a $3.2 billion, multi-phased project by the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD).

"The Future of Water", jointly presented by MSD and the Cincinnati Park Board and on display through August 15, is designed to raise public awareness of the issues an overabundance of storm water can cause – from flooded basements to impaired water quality to sewage overflows in local streams.

The exhibit also demonstrates what local citizens can do to help, like planting a green roof, installing a rain barrel.

The problems result from the City's 180-year-old, antiquated combined sewer and drainage system, which is often overwhelmed during heavy rain events. It's estimated that approximately 14.1 billion gallons of raw sewage – mixed with storm water – overflows from sewers into local streams, rivers, and basements.

Through a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, MSD has been mandated to capture, treat, or remove 85 percent of the combined sewer overflows and to eliminate all sanitary sewer overflows.

Hundreds of projects

To remedy the problem, MSD has begun the process of building hundreds of sewer improvement and storm water control project.

Phase 1, scheduled for completion in 2018, will include:

  • 45 construction projects in Green, Springfield and Symmes townships; the City of Cheviot; and 19 neighborhoods in the City of Cincinnati. These include a deep tunnel to store storm water and wastewater in the Lower Mill Creek valley.
  • A three-year action plan for the Lower Mill Creek to resolve two billion gallons of combined sewer overflows each year.
  • A three-year study to determine the best green practices to control storm water overflows in combined sewer areas.
  • Planning for Phase 2.
Phase 2, to begin in or after 2018, will include 256 construction projects across Hamilton County that were outlined in a "wet weather plan" conditionally approved by the U.S. and Ohio EPAs in June 2009.

A project schedule for Phase 2 will be developed and submitted to the EPAs by 2017 for approval.

Cincinnati not alone

MSD manages the collection and treatment of more than 200 million gallons of wastewater per day, and actively maintains 3,000 miles of sanitary and combined sewers in Hamilton County.

Since 2004, MSD has invested nearly $300 million in 71 separate projects, including new sewers, sewer separation, upgraded pump stations, treatment plant improvements, more efficient flow regulators, green roofs and bio swales, and facilities to store excess storm water during heavy rains.

According to the U.S. EPA, approximately 772 communities – mostly located in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and Pacific Northwest regions – have similar aging combined overflow systems.

Many also are under federal orders, including systems in Louisville, Columbus, Indianapolis, Toledo, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.