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Central Ohio Group Issues

This article was submitted for the September / October 2005  issue of the newsletter.

Columbus Proposes Sanitary and Storm Sewer Plans

By , Central Ohio Water Quality Coordinator
Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage (DOSD) has released drafts of two important plans guiding wastewater management for decades to come.  The draft Storm Water Drainage Manual covers what will be required to control surface water runoff from development sites.  The Wet Weather Management Plan will guide city efforts to expand the sewer system and reduce discharges of untreated sewage.

The draft Storm Water Drainage Manual is available on DOSD’s website in the Project Clean Rivers section.  It is an improvement over the old requirement that streams on development sites be enclosed in pipes.  The new manual calls for a small stream corridor protection zone around identified streams; building and soil disturbance would be prohibited in the 50 to 200 foot wide protected zone.  There are exemptions for downtown areas and redevelopments with existing buildings.

Developers will be required to submit a storm water management report and a site plan from a professional engineer with calculated post-development runoff rates.  Storm water controls for quantity and quality are required to keep runoff rates at certain levels.  The controls for quantity include:  dry and wet detention basins, shallow ponding on parking lots, underground tank storage, and green roofs.  Storm water quality controls include:  wet and dry detention basins, constructed wetlands, filters of plants & soil or sand, vegetated swales and grass filter strips.  There are special controls for commercial activities like mining, construction, and manufacturing.  Restrictions for redevelopment sites are looser.

The Storm Water Drainage Manual is a step in the right direction, but it could be improved by:

°    Wider stream protection corridor.

°    Landscaping principles to guide and enhance the list of recommended plants.

°    List of references, websites and publications.

°    Clear policy and incentives for stream restoration.

°    Prohibition on floodplain filling.

°    Addition of storm water controls on post-development volume, not just peak rate.

°    Stricter controls in the Big Darby area

°    Tighter definition of variances to reduce individual discretion.

°    Protections for stream flow hydrology and water temperatures.  In practice, this would mean larger riparian buffers/stream protection corridors with more trees and shrubs for shading.

The Wet Weather Management Plan (WWMP) for reducing sewer overflows was submitted to Ohio EPA on July 1.  The Executive Summary is available on the web under Project Clean Rivers.  CD copies are available at the third floor Maps and Permit desk of the Utilities Complex at 910 Dublin Road (open 7:30 to 4:30).  Copies of the 22 volume report are available for viewing at the Downtown Library, 90 S. Grant Ave. (Third Floor Biography, History and Travel; no reservations needed); at the Sewer Maintenance Operations Center, 1250 Fairwood Ave. (Call 645-7378 for reservations); and at the DOSD Map and Permit Room (see address above, call 645-7490 for reservations).

The WWMP aims to reduce combined sewer overflows to 4 events per year.  The goal for sanitary sewage is full secondary/biological treatment at the two Columbus wastewater treatment plants with overflows happening generally about every 10 years.  The plan promises increased treatment plant capacity and increased storage in the system.  All these are things that the Sierra Club has advocated for.  

The city proposes to build one large new pipe from downtown to the Jackson Pike plant and it would also connect to a partial treatment facility nearby for high rainfall times.  Two deep tunnels are also proposed, one parallel to the lower Olentangy River and one parallel to Alum Creek.  The tunnels would be 14 feet in diameter, 50-150 feet deep and used for storage during high rainfall, called “wet weather events.”

Much analysis and evaluation of the plans remains to be done.  The cost of the pipe and tunnels alone will be $2 billion.  Other costs will drive expenditures over $5 billion.  The buildout period is proposed to last 40 years.  Is this the best technology solution and the best use of ratepayer dollars?

The Sierra Club will be examining the documents and analyzing the proposals.  We would like to see more definite relief at an early date for those who suffer from public sewer basement backups.  We advocate removing storm water from sewage, and isolating combined flow rather than adding it into the regular sanitary system.  We would like to see reports on how deep tunnel technology has performed in other cities that have built them—Chicago, Milwaukee, Portland, Cleveland, for example.  We have concerns about the geology and hydrology of deep tunnels, which are proposed near or under rivers.  The Central Ohio Sierra Club will evaluate and comment on the Wet Weather Management Plan.

You can be involved in the effort to evaluate Columbus sewer plans.

°    Look at the documents, either the paper copy or on CD.  Submit comments yourself to by November 1:  Public Information Office, 910 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH  43215.

°    Make a donation to help cover costs of evaluating the technical documents.  Send a tax-deductible check made out to “Sierra Club Foundation” to Sierra Club Treasurer, 6760 Hayhurst St; Worthington OH  43085.

°    Participate in our fundraising campaign by joining in on a Phone Bank.  They are scheduled for September 13 and 20 at the Gay Street office.  Contact for details.

°    Let us know what you think of the city proposals.  Contact at 461-0734 x 311.


Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage (DOSD) has released drafts of two important plans guiding wastewater management for decades to come.
The Sierra Club will be examining the documents and analyzing the proposals.

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