This article was submitted for the May / June 2005 issue of the newsletter.
COLUMBUS TO SPEND $2-3 BILLION ON
UPGRADING THE SEWERS
– WILL IT STOP DISCHARGES?
By , Sierra Club Water Quality Coordinator, Columbus
The Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage (DOSD) is
required by judicial consent orders to submit extensive
planning documents to Ohio EPA on July 1, 2005. The
Sierra Club is advocating to stop discharges of full
strength sanitary sewage and reduce discharges of dilute
Overflows occur commonly. In January of 2005, DOSD
reported 154 sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) of
undiluted untreated sewage. Two overflows were reported
in Berliner Park on “various dates between Jan. 3 and
Jan. 14”. Berliner Park is one of the largest softball
facilities in the country. Ball diamonds were flooded by
raw sewage and storm water, which surged across Route 71
and shut the highway. DOSD gave no total for number of
overflows, locations of manholes, or volumes of raw
sewage discharged. Nor was there any public explanation
of how and why raw sewage sludge appeared inches deep on
fields where children hope to play ball. The public
needs to know how planned construction will prevent
future incidents like this.
The City has not provided specific plans, but the price
tag is rising. Estimates which started at $1 billion
have climbed to $2-3 billion. Consultants are analyzing
effects of rate increases, but there are no specific
proposals to reduce impacts on citizens most sensitive
to rate hikes.
On March 2 DOSD held the second of three public meetings
to inform citizens of the city’s upgrade plans and to
ask for public input. Three public meetings are all that
Ohio EPA has required of DOSD in a year of planning, and
OEPA has not required the city to incorporate any public
suggestions into their plans. The Sierra Club has the
following concerns that the city must more fully
Expand and enhance treatment plants; explore adding
another. Increasing Columbus’ capacity to fully treat
sewage is key. Although larger pipes to carry and store
it can help, lack of capacity to fully treat sewage and
dispose of the resulting solids is a major constraint.
Design for full treatment alternatives, not “blending”
or “high rate treatment”. Blending relies on dumping of
partially treated sewage. It has not been approved by
the state or federal government and should not be (see
article “Blending Updates” in this Ohio Sierran).
Stop overflows of raw sewage and backups into
basements caused by lack of capacity. Reduce overflows
of dilute sewage and bypasses around the treatment
Separate storm water out of the combined sewer system.
Build public information, input, and involvement.
Create a central DOSD library for document access and
information requests. Post more information on the DOSD
website. Include consistent, meaningful public
participation throughout the planning process.
Collect data necessary for accurate planning to stop
sewage overflows and systemic basement sewage backups.
Make information available to the public on sewage
overflow and bypass occurrence, location, and volume.
Design for zero overflows of raw undiluted sanitary
sewage. Quantify progress on management and cleaning of
the sewer system.
Collect good information on water and biological
quality of area streams and rivers where sewage is
discharged. This means collecting data at the most
polluted sites and at critical times, not arbitrarily as
the City is doing now. All information should be freely
available to the public.
Provide better technical information for external
review and make it accessible.
Improve and strengthen suggested changes to the Fats,
Oils, and Grease control program. Incorporate all
changes in the Columbus City Code and clarify
definitions. Decrease existing limits on grease
discharge. Broaden enforcement from restaurants to any
facility that discharges significant grease.
Create specific programs to lessen financial impacts
on low-income ratepayers.
COG response to city: Read the
Sierra Club’s response
to Columbus’ March 2 proposals for upgrading the city’s
Volunteers are needed for several projects, including
database entry. Contact .
COG Chair’s note: In spending up to $3 billion, the most
important component, increasing sewage treatment
capacity, is not addressed in an adequate way. The
greater part of the money is being spent on a system of
enormous conduits. This would serve the city’s plans for
expansion by creating the means to bring more waste from
expanding suburbs. More waste, combined with a lack of
treatment capacity, would seriously compound the
BASEMENT SEWAGE FORUM
7:30 pm-9 pm, Mon., May
Lawrence Black Auditorium at the Columbus Main Library
96 S. Grant Ave.
Attention basement sewage backup
sufferers! Come to the Basement Sewage Forum. Everyone
is invited to attend our first Sierra Club meeting for
sewage-in-basement sufferers, but attendance is
particularly important if you have had this experience.
Bring your neighbors who have had sewage backups!
SEWERS and FORESTS
The Ohio Sierra Club is looking for volunteers to help
enter database information on sewage in basement victims
and public comments on the Wayne National Forest
management plan. We are looking for people who can
volunteer during regular business hours at our downtown
office located at 36 W. Gay St. Contact .
Contribute to the
We have a generous donor who will again match all
donations up to a total of $2000 in 2005.
Last fall Columbus passed a water and sewer rate
increase that raises the average bill by about $40 per
year. The Sierra Club is working to see that our
ratepayer dollars are spent in an economic and
environmentally beneficial manner. Please help by
writing a tax-deductible check to the Sierra Club
Foundation. Mail it to:
Sierra Club Treasurer
6760 Hayhurst St.
Worthington, OH 43085.
Ball diamonds were flooded by raw sewage and storm
water, which surged across Route 71 and shut the
The Sierra Club is advocating to stop discharges of
full strength sanitary sewage and reduce discharges of
dilute untreated sewage.