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Central Ohio Group Issues

This article was submitted for the May / June 2006  issue of the Ohio Sierran.

Ohio Sierra Club Awarded Columbus Foundation Grant

The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club has been awarded a Conservation Fund grant from Edwin H. and Nellie M. Rausenberger Fund of the Columbus Foundation to continue the Central Ohio Sewers Campaign. The grant will enable the Chapter to build on success with enhanced education and outreach.

The Central Ohio Group began the Sewers Campaign in 2002, pressuring the City of Columbus to stop dumping large amounts of raw sewage. The City signed a legal Consent Order with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) that required sewage monitoring and reporting, along with penalties for overflows. Another Consent Order in 2004 required more extensive research and modeling, along with substantial reductions in overflow volumes.

Between 2004 and 2006, the Sierra Club reviewed technical proposals and building plans put forward by the City of Columbus wastewater utility - the Division of Sewerage and Drainage (DOSD). Since the Columbus utility services 1.1 million of the regionís 1.5 million people, its plans affect the health and well being of most of the areaís people and waterways. Sierra Club representatives met many times with City utility and OEPA staff to ask for less raw sewage discharges and healthier rivers. The Sierra Club has also worked to include other environmental organizations and watershed groups.

The collaborative approach has been successful. There has been progress against dumping of raw sewage, especially in the larger rivers. Here are some of the positives: DOSD has delivered a detailed report on sewage problems and suggested solutions to the OEPA; DOSD has already begun projects in problem areas that have overflows and basement backups; treatment plants are being upgraded and expanded; the City is offering free relief valves to people who suffer from backups from the public system; DOSD is promising to reduce overflow volumes by almost 70% by 2010; the City is committing to over $5 billion in building projects to fix the sewer system. In addition, Columbus has begun a requirement for stream corridor protection in its new Stormwater Drainage Manual, emphasizing native vegetation in buffers along waterways. And, there is the possibility for a regional approach to planning of utility development in the sensitive Darby Creeks area of Franklin County west of Columbus. And, the utility is providing better information on its website.

Although less raw sewage will be dumped in the Scioto River, many smaller streams and neighborhoods still have problems with sanitary sewage and stormwater. The Columbus Foundation grant will fund the Sierra Club education initiative to reach out to existing community and environmental groups. The presentation will illustrate what individuals can do on their own properties and how neighborhood groups and community organizations can more effectively mobilize to work for clean water in their area. The goal of the project is to ensure a continuing process so that committed groups can effectively communicate with the utility that affects the health of central Ohio rivers: they get information and the agency gets the feedback it needs.

Contact Us Today for a Presentation to Your Community Group

If you have a group in central Ohio that would like to schedule a presentation, contact Water Quality Coordinator, Ohio Sierra Club.

The Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club has been awarded a Conservation Fund grant from Edwin H. and Nellie M. Rausenberger Fund of the Columbus Foundation to... build on success with enhanced education and outreach.
The presentation will illustrate what individuals can do on their own properties and how neighborhood groups and community organizations can more effectively mobilize to work for clean water in their area.

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