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Central Ohio Group Issues

This article was submitted for the January / February 2006  issue of the newsletter.

What a Year for Central Ohio Sewers!

By , Central Ohio Water Quality Coordinator

2005 was a banner year for the Columbus wastewater system. The system that conveys and treats sewage and storm water from 80% of the region’s 1.4 million people is hopefully on the road to improvement.

First, Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage put forward a draft replacement Storm Water Drainage Manual. Although the final draft has not been released, it will surely be an improvement over past policy that required surface streams be enclosed in pipes! The Central Ohio Sierra Club submitted extensive comments on the draft, asking for, among other things, stronger requirements for native plantings and vegetation in storm water facilities.

Second, the City released its massive Wet Weather Management Plan, a technical report 5 feet 4 inches tall. The Plan proposes four areas of capital projects to meet the goals of eliminating sanitary sewer overflows and reducing combined sewer overflows.

Construction will begin most rapidly on a large pipe to be built from the Whittier Street complex down to the Jackson Pike area to convey combined sewage flows. Combined sewers are older technology, where storm water and sewage flow through the same pipes. Ultimately the Olentangy Augmentation Relief Sewer (OARS) will collect combined flows from the Nationwide area all the way along the Scioto down to the Jackson Pike wastewater treatment plant, where a new High Rate Treatment facility will be built for combined sewage.

Work will also proceed rapidly on the two treatment plants. They will grow from present capacity of 300 million gallons per day fairly quickly to 480 million gallons.

There will be 12 Priority Areas where localized projects to stop sanitary sewer overflows will proceed. The Livingston/James area has been identified as a study area because of basement backups.

The biggest components of the Plan are two deep tunnels proposed along the Olentangy River and Alum Creek. They would be 14 feet wide, 12 miles long each, and would take decades to build. The Sierra Club reviewed the whole Plan, which involved looking at thousands of pages of documents.

The Sierra Club supports all the work on the treatment plants and Priority Areas. We encourage environmental restoration with projects that cause disturbance, especially the near surface OARS downtown along the Scioto. The deep tunnels are a massive undertaking of community resources and will require careful study, siting, and building so that they provide more environmental benefits than harm.

Utility rates have already started to go up and this will continue for some time. The proposals will ultimately make area waters and neighborhoods cleaner but they will be expensive. The City has for the first time put in a Low Income Discount program for the most disadvantaged that cannot afford rate increases. And, the rate structure has moved more toward encouraging conservation rather than economic development.

Learn more about all these developments at the Monthly Program on January 11.

COG Chair’s note: Columbus spent a good deal of money on engineering studies for sanitary sewage “blending”, which is essentially mixing raw sewage with water and then dumping it. At that time the Bush Administration was attempting to legalize blending at the federal level. When opposition hardened, the Administration, and therefore also Columbus, dropped blending plans.

Donate To The Sewer Campaign
The Sierra Club has been working for 4 years to help protect Central Ohio citizens and rivers from sewage overflows. While many people are volunteering their time and energy, funds are needed to continue this work and build on past inertia.

For tax deductibility, make out a check to the Sierra Club Foundation and mail it to:

Sierra Club Treasurer
9357 Chester Dr.
Pickerington, OH 43147
(Please note the address change for the treasurer.)
Thank you!

The Sierra Club supports all the work on the treatment plants and Priority Areas. We encourage environmental restoration with projects that cause disturbance...

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