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Central Ohio Group Issues


Combined Sewer Overflow at OSU

Columbus provides sewer services to much of central Ohio, 1.1 out of 1.5 million people. Billions of gallons of raw sewage are discharged from the system each year without treatment.

There are four ways that raw sewage is released:
Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs)
are releases of undiluted sewage from manholes or pipes; Columbus reported 535 SSOs in 2004 from 96 locations.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) occur when sewage mixed with storm water is released. In January 2005, the city reported almost one billion gallons combined sewer overflow from just one site.

Bypasses occur when the treatment plants divert untreated sewage into the rivers; in January 2005 Columbus treatment plants bypassed about 1 ˝ billion gallons.

Basement backups of raw sewage can occur when the sewer system is overloaded. In 2004, there were about 3,200 reports of basement backups from about 2,000 addresses; the city accepted responsibility for 508. In January 2005, there were 1,200 reports from 880 addresses.

The Sierra Club is working for:

  • Cleaner Waters: Eliminating sanitary sewer overflows and basement backups. Reducing combined sewer overflows and treatment plant bypasses.

  • Relief for Basement Backup Sufferers: Customer service must be provided with information on health hazards and clean up, documenting damages, how to determine the cause, and prevent future backups.

  • Equitable Sewer Rates: Sewer rates are calculated by water usage. Lower rates should be given to low water users, not to high water users. Ratepayers need incentives for conservation, while low-income families need to be given a way to reduce their utility burden. Columbus needs to charge appropriate amounts to large users such as Anheuser Busch. The public must also have good information on how its utility monies will be spent, and opportunity to affect decision making.

  • Fair Development: Developers must pay for the full cost of sewer line extensions, and costs of increased treatment in the future.

  • Adequate Treatment Capacity: Columbus must increase its sewage treatment capacity to handle the sewage it now receives and projected future increases. It must plan for full treatment, not rely on partial treatment or no treatment approaches.

Encourage Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman to Move Forward With the Fifth Avenue Dam Project

The Sierra Club Central Ohio Group encourages the City of Columbus to prioritize the removal of the Fifth Avenue Dam, which is a threat to both public safety and clean water. The hydraulic current of the dam is capable of trapping and drowning even the strongest of swimmers. In addition, the pool behind the dam is the only area of the main stem of the Olentangy that does not meet EPA water quality standards. The slow currents and low oxygen behind the dam exacerbate the problems caused by combined sewer overflows (CSOs). Therefore, removing the dam would complement and enhance the City’s existing Wet Weather Management Plan to eliminate CSOs and clean up the Olentangy River.

Please click here for a detailed update of the Fifth Avenue Dam. Click on the email link to thank Mayor Michael Coleman for the progress made up to date and to encourage him to move forward with the next steps toward dam removal.

Background Information

Household Water Conservation Tips (May 2009)

Green Infrastructure Prevents Sewer Overflows and Protects Water Quality (September 2008)

Fact Sheet on Columbus Sewers (updated September 2005)


Ohio Sierra Club Awarded Columbus Foundation Grant (May 2006)

New Columbus Stormwater Drainage Manual (May 2006)

Clean Water News for Central Ohio (March 2006)

What a Year for Central Ohio Sewers! (January 2006)

Sierra Club Sewers Campaign Critical for Columbus (November 2005)

Columbus Proposes Sanitary and Storm Sewer Plans (September 2005)

Update on Central Ohio Sewers Campaign Activities (July 2005)

Columbus to Spend $2-3 Billion on Upgrading the Sewers – Will it Stop Discharges? (May 2005)

Getting Sewage Out of Rivers & Basements (March 2005)

Update on Central Ohio Sewers (January 2005)

Columbus Plans for Combined Sewer Remediation (November 2004)

Sierra Club Supports Columbus Bond Issues for Storm Sewers, Parks (November 2004)

Mayor Coleman, Get Into Compliance With the Clean Water Act! (September 2004)

New Sierra Club Staff Person Will Work on Columbus Clean Water and Sewer Issues (May 2004)

Columbus Sewer Rates Increase, Lack Accountability (January, 2004)

Help Fight Sewer Violations (January, 2004)

Marbley Dismisses Lawsuit, Club Continues Sewer Work (November, 2003)

Columbus Sewage Headworks = $100 Million Fiasco (November, 2003)

US EPA Rejects Columbus’ Areawide Water Quality Management Plan (July 2003)

New Action Network Can Be Used For Sewer Plan Comments (August, 2003)

Why Columbus Sewers and Rivers Stink (updated April, 2003)

Sierra Club Continues Legal Actions to End Sewage Dumping (January, 2003)

My River, The Sewer (January, 2003)

Sierra Club Sues Columbus For Sewer Discharges (September, 2002)

Sierra Club v. City of Columbus (July, 2002)

Sierra Club Announces Intent to Sue Columbus for Illegal Sanitary Sewer Overflows (March 28, 2002)


(Sierra Club responses to proposals by the Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage, Ohio EPA, Ohio Dept. of Transportation, and other governmental entities)

Testimony to Columbus City Council, Ordinance Number 1724-2008 (November 17, 2008)

Comments on proposed 2009 sewer and water rates and the Wet Weather Management Plan (November 11, 2008)

Testimony to Columbus City Council, Ordinance Number 1661-2008 (November 10, 2008)

Comments on Wet Weather Mangement Plan Draft Approval (August 2008)

The Sierra Club Supports The Big Darby Accord (June 21, 2006)

Comments on OEPA General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity (February 27, 2006)

Comments on OEPA General Permit for Construction Stormwater in the Big Darby Watershed (February 27, 2006)

Comments on City of Columbus Combined Sewer Interim Control Plan (February 06, 2006)

Comments on Division of Sewerage and Drainage Stormwater Drainage Manual (June 2005 Draft Ed) (August 15, 2005)

Comments on Division of Sewerage and Drainage Presentation of Wet Weather Management Plans (March 31, 2005)

Comments on Division of Sewerage and Drainage Proposed Fats, Oils, and Grease Program (March 31, 2005)

Comments on Columbus Ohio EPA National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit (November 17, 2004)

Comments on Division of Sewerage and Drainage Technologies and Initial Alternatives Plan (September 16, 2004)

Carpenter Environmental Associates, Review of Columbus Annual SSO and WIB Report (March 15, 2004)

News Releases

Sierra Club Files New Intent To Sue (July 15, 2003)

News Release of lawsuit filed (July 24, 2002)

News Release of second intent to sue (May 30, 2002)

News Release of Proposed Settlement with Ohio EPA (May 22, 2002)

News Release of intent to sue (March 28, 2002)

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