This article was submitted for the September / October 2005 issue of the newsletter.
Columbus Proposes Sanitary and Storm
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
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
° 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
° 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
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
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
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
° 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.