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Central Ohio Group Issues

September, 2005.


Downtown Columbus, OhioOlder cities in Ohio and the Midwest have sewer technology that is out-of-date, crumbling infrastructure, and pipes too small for increased loads from growth and development.

The rate of sanitary sewer overflows in Columbus for 2004 was five to ten times higher than rates found in major recent benchmarking national studies. Inclusion of basement backups would double those rates. (Reported overflow rates for Hamilton County and Cincinnati were more than ten times as high as the national average.)

Columbus has a problem with raw sewage

Sewage overflows cover softball fields at Berliner Park on Columbus south side in January 2005

Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage (DOSD) says: “Our wastewater treatment plants currently have dry weather capacity. They do not have wet weather capacity.”

This means that when it rains, sewage pours out without treatment. In 2004, the division reported releasing about 3 billion gallons of untreated sewage. When it rains heavily, a lot of raw sewage is released. In January 2005, a very rainy month, Columbus counted more than 2 1/2 billion gallons that overflowed just during that month, with many overflows not measured.

Raw sewage can always cause diarrhea. If there are viruses or disease-causing organisms, it can also cause cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, giardia, or a host of other ailments. When raw sewage is released, it goes into the rivers of Columbus, the source of the city’s drinking water!

Raw sewage discharged into rivers, lakes, and streams also harms the environment, causing algae to bloom, and killing naturally occurring fish, insects, plants, and mussels.

Downtown Columbus, Ohio

Four Ways That Sewage Enters Our Lakes, Rivers and Streams

  1. Combined sewer overflows are large pipes downtown and in the older sections of the city that discharge untreated sewage mixed with storm water directly into the river. Columbus has 20 combined sewer overflow discharge locations.

  2. Sanitary sewer overflows are manholes or pipes where raw sanitary sewage from houses and businesses is released into rivers, streams, parks, and streets. In 2004, Columbus reported 586 “SSOs” from 96 locations.

  3. Bypasses are large pipes around treatment plants that rout untreated sewage directly to the Scioto River when the plants are overloaded. There are 3 bypasses around 2 treatment plants.

  4. Basement backups occur when raw sewage from the public system intrudes into buildings. There were at least 500 reports of basement sewage backups in 2004, and 400 in January 2005 alone. Typically across the country, there are 4 sewage backups for every one reported.

Children in an east Columbus neighborhood where flooding sewage pipes caused basement backups and overflows in January 2005The Sierra Club Is Working for You!

The Sierra Club has been working in Columbus (and Cincinnati) toward solutions, including publicly accessible information, help for those who suffer from basement backups, elimination of sanitary sewer overflows, and reductions of combined sewer overflows and bypasses. We

Columbus citizens need the Sierra Club as an independent advocate for ratepayer relief. The Division of Sewerage and Drainage will ask for increasing sewer rates every single year – total sewer charges will probably triple over the course of decades-long construction projects. The Sierra Club will continue to demand that new growth must pay its own way and not overburden the system with ever-increasing sewer loads.

We Need Your Help — There is More Work to Do

Support Central Ohio Sierra Club Sewers Campaign.
Make out a tax-deductible donation to:

Sierra Club Foundation
Central Ohio Sierra Club Treasurer
6760 Hayhurst Street
Worthington, OH 43085

Join the Sierra Club
Membership in the national Sierra Club is not tax-deductible because you get benefits like Sierra magazine.
Send $25 to: Sierra Club, PO Box 52968, Boulder CO 80322.
Put the number 2801 in the memo line for Central Ohio Group to get credit for your membership.

Report any and all backups or overflows
Columbus Div. of Sewerage and Drainage 24 hour line:
(614) 645-7102

Contact the Central Ohio Sierra Club to get involved
, Water Quality Coordinator

Index to articles on the Columbus sewers issue.


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