An official from the EPA will be setting up shop in Lakewood City Hall this week.
He’ll also make some stops at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant to examine the city’s excessive storm water runoff into Lake Erie.
“His visit is to get familiar with our system and our issues,” said Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers. “Our issues are having a 100-year system, with no capacity to make a $100-million investment.”
City officials concede that for the past 100 years in Lakewood, “the solution to pollution was dissolution.”
That’s no longer an option.
“We’ve been trying to gain ground since Lakewood was built,” said Summers.
With Lakewood reporting in 2010 that 91.4 million gallons of storm/sewer water were dumped into Lake Erie, the EPA is forcing the city to make some changes.
Those fixes to the city’s infrastructure could be expensive — as much as $500 million. The city is working on an agreement with the US EPA to address the problem.
“Effort doesn’t count,” Summers said. “We could make a $100 million investment and they could tell us to keep going.”
Lakewood’s combined sewers are designed to take all flows to the treatment plant, which can process about 20 million gallons per day. However, during storms, the volume of water entering the combined sewer system can exceed both the capacity of the combined sewers and the treatment plant.
What doesn’t make it to the treatment plant ends up in the lake — with fish, swimmers and drinking water.
That just doesn’t float with stringent environmental standards that regulate outflow into the nation’s rivers, streams and lakes.
Joe Beno, the city’s director of public works, told Lakewood Patch last year that the actual amount of sewage deposited into Lake Erie is much less than 91.4 million gallons reported.
Hardly noticeable, he said.
“Lakewood is not discharging direct sewage into the lake — nothing goes into the lake unless it rains,” Beno said, adding that it’s difficult to measure the actual percentage of raw sewage in the discharge. “It’s mostly rainwater.”
City officials will work this week with the EPA representative to examine some solutions.
Here are a few of them:
- One option is to tear up all the streets in the city and install a completely new system. But with a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars, city officials have said that is out of the question: “I would hope that the EPA wouldn’t bankrupt a city just to do that,” Beno said.
- Some communities take 20-foot interceptor tunnels that allow for a slower release of water that prevents large dumps of storm-water into the lake.
- City officials are considering offering incentives to homeowners who disconnect their gutters.
- Rain barrels are an option, but they can fill up fast. For a two-hour storm, that might not be sufficient.
- The city is requiring new developers to build retention swales under new parking lots. Some places — such as the new McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Garfield Middle School — already have them.