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Stormwater vs. overflow control: What’s the difference?

Last year was marked by distinct discussions about stormwater and combined sewers and the problem each is causing across Northeast Ohio. The Sewer District developed detailed programs to address each issue, but there is understandable confusion about the programs and their impacts: Don’t both programs deal with stormwater? Don’t both programs have an impact on flooding problems? After the jump, we outlined a helpful overview of the two separate programs, their separate costs, their goals, and where they stand today.

Combined sewer overflow (CSO)

THE PROGRAM: Project Clean Lake

THE FOCUS: Our sewers

THE GOAL: Reduce raw sewage discharges from combined sewers into Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, and streams.

THE REASON: To comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

THE BENEFITS: Project Clean Lake will reduce raw sewage discharges into environment from 4.5 billion gallons per year to fewer than 0.5 billion gallons per year.

THE COMPONENTS: The expansive program includes construction of seven (7) huge storage tunnels, as well as green infrastructure projects.

THE IMPACT: An economic impact study estimates Project Clean Lake can create 31,000 new jobs, and $443 million in tax revenue over five years within the seven-county Northeast Ohio area.

THE INVESTMENT: Yearly sewer rate increases to fund $3 billion of construction projects over 25 years.

THE STATUS: Known as a consent decree, the agreement approved by Trustees December 2, 2010, opened for public comment in the Federal Register in December 2010, closed for comment and submitted to US District Court in January 2011, and is awaiting final review before it can be legally binding.

Stormwater management

THE PROGRAM: Regional Stormwater Management Program

THE FOCUS: Our streams, rivers, and streets

THE GOAL: Address the regional problems that occur when massive volumes of storm runoff (rain, melted snow and ice) flow from one community to another.

THE REASON: To provide a regional solution to stormwater-management problems that cross community boundaries and borders, as stated in the District’s founding court order.

THE BENEFITS: Reduce flooding of homes and streets, erosion of roads and streambanks, and surface pollution into Lake Erie and local waterways.

THE INVESTMENT: A user fee (average $57/year) based on the amount of paved/hard surfaces on one’s property.

THE STATUS: Since the District’s Trustees adopted the program unanimously in January 2010, the District filed a motion with the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to reaffirm authority to manage stormwater within the existing service area. The program remains in court today.