When it comes to rainfall, we tend to focus on keeping it off of our heads — not where it goes after hitting the pavement. Yet storm water runoff is a major issue in Northeast Ohio. With every downpour, millions of gallons of rainwater run off parking lots, streets and sidewalks, carrying pollutants into our streams, rivers and Lake Erie.
A new program launched by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) in December aims to address Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO’s) that result in untreated wastewater entering our rivers and Lake Erie. NEORSD is evaluating the potential to control CSO’s by helping communities to design streets, sidewalks and other impervious areas in ways that reduce runoff. NEORSD has committed to spending at least $42 million to control a minimum of 44 million gallons per year of CSO through the use of better storm water management or “green infrastructure.” commits
“This is about the re-greening of our urban areas and potentially making a positive out of our vacant land problems,” says Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Manager of Watershed Programs with NEORSD.
Take your local commercial district as an example. Landscaping requires water and maintenance. Every time it rains, the water sluices towards the catch basins in the street, ending up in the lake. What if communities designed streets so that rainwater funnels to the plants, providing more sustainable landscaping and reusing the water?
Forty-two million is a razor-thin slice of the $3 billion sewer upgrade, but NEORSD officials are hoping that a few key pilot projects will lead to a big change in how Northeast Ohio communities plan and implement infrastructure projects.