Project Clean Lake is a program to enable us to meet Clean Water Act standards and address water quality issues caused by raw sewage that overflows into the environment during rain events.
In 1972, the Clean Water Act was created to address water quality issues, like raw sewage discharges.
Although NEORSD has reduced raw sewage discharges significantly over the years and holds permits for discharge points, the EPA considers us in violation of the Clean Water Act because not all discharges have been controlled to required levels. We and the federal government entered into a Consent Decree to address this issue.
What's a consent decree?
It's a document that spells out what we will do to reduce raw sewage discharges and when it will complete the work.
The Consent Decree is a legally binding document entered into by your Sewer District, the Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio Attorney General's Office. The document details what we call Project Clean Lake.
Project Clean Lake is a $3 billion, 25-year program that will reduce the total volume of raw sewage discharges from 4.5 billion gallons to 494 million gallons annually. Over 98% of wet weather flows in our combined sewer system will be receiving treatment in 25 years.
What's in the consent decree?
At the heart of the Consent Decree is the construction of large-scale storage tunnels and treatment plant enhancements.
"Gray" infrastructure: Tunnels
We will construct seven tunnels, ranging from two to five miles in length, up to 300 feet underground and up to 24 feet in diameter--large enough to park a semi-truck.
The tunnels are similar to the nearly complete Mill Creek Tunnel, a structure with the capacity to store 75 million gallons of combined sewage for treatment at the Sewer District's Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In 2011, we began construction on its second large-scale project, the Euclid Creek Tunnel System. The five other remaining tunnel projects are: the Dugway Tunnel, Shoreline Tunnel, Southerly Tunnel, Big Creek Tunnel and the Westerly Tunnel.
Infrastructure: Treatment plant enhancements
At the Easterly and Southerly plants, the maximum amount of wastewater that can receive secondary treatment will increase. Additionally, at the Westerly plant, the maximum amount of treatment that can take place at the District's Combined Sewer Overflow Treatment Facility (located adjacent to Westerly) will increase.
Also, the District has been given an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of lower-energy treatment options through pilot demonstration projects. If successful, we can avoid implementation of costly, energy-intensive treatment technologies.
Green infrastructure and stormwater control measures
Project Clean Lake includes a minimum of $42 million in green infrastructure projects. This includes stormwater control measures (or SCMs) to store, infiltrate, and evapotranspirate stormwater before it even makes its way to the combined sewer system. Download the Green Infrastructure Plan
Additionally, we will work with the City of Cleveland to assess the use of vacant lots for green infrastructure projects and leverage economic development opportunities in redevelopment corridors.
This could reduce the long-term cost of the program while enhancing neighborhoods, providing economic development opportunities, and rebuilding our community.
What does this mean for the community? For customers?
It means a cleaner Lake Erie. But, with a $3 billion price tag, it also affects rates.
As our main source of revenue, our customers will fund Project Clean Lake. In June 2011, Trustees approved a 2012-2016 rate schedule; of the yearly average increase of 13 percent, Project Clean Lake accounts for about 4 percent.
However, NEORSD is seeking additional funding and developing rate saving programs to help eligible customers defray the cost.
In terms of regional economic impact, a 2010 economic impact study by Cleveland State University (CSU) determined the economic benefit of sewer construction projects on the community. Based on the information provided by CSU for the District's five-year CIP (2012-2016), Project Clean Lake will generate 31,000 jobs in the seven Northeast Ohio counties and will generate $3 billion in labor income. Plus, it will generate $443 million in tax revenue.
What's happened so far with the CSO long-term control plan?
We have worked cooperatively and positively with federal and state governments on CSO issues.
Since 2004, District has negotiated with state and federal environmental regulators to obtain approval of the plan to reduce raw sewage discharges, the last of which was submitted to the state in 2002:
Easterly District and Southerly District CSO facilities plans were submitted in 2002.
Westerly District CSO facilities plan was submitted in 1999.
The Mill Creek facilities plan was submitted in 1996.
In addition, Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant and Southerly Wastewater Treatment Center plant bypass evaluations were submitted in 2008.
In July 2010, the Sewer District and state and federal environmental regulators agreed on the basic elements of an acceptable proposal. Specific issues included the length of time allotted to complete construction projects, the cost of the program and affordability.
Like us, over 770 other cities around the country--including Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo--have negotiated (or continue to negotiate) a long-term plan to address sewer discharges.