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Lakewood’s Storm Water Discharge Under EPA Microscope

An official from the EPA is coming to Lakewood this week to work with city officials in an effort to resolve the city’s storm water runoff into Lake Erie.

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.
TEO November 27, 2012 at 09:20 PM
The building department needs to get on the same page as the EPA. Currently the only approved material for driveways is concrete or asphalt. More permeable surfaces such as gravel or even pavers are not allowed. My nieghbors actually eliminated part of their driveway b/c the yard is very deep and put in grass. The building department is telling them they need to re-pave it. How's that for conservation!
Mark justmark November 27, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I recall that 4 or 5 years ago the City had hired an engineering firm to study placing an interceptor tunnel under Clifton Road and even held a public meeting about it. What happened to that effort? Further, the USEPA has been urging municipalities to do something about CSOs for, literally, decades. Has there seriously been no effort to separate sewers in Lakewood?
Mark justmark November 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
You're correct. Disconnecting residential gutters helps but it's not a serious solution. The problem is that most stormwater runoff runs off of impervious surfaces (streets, parking lots, walks, drives, roofs, etc.) The amount of rooftop surface area is far less than all of the other paved surfaces in Lakewood. There is also the fact the heavy clay soils in Lakewood drain poorly. Under heavy rainfall, disconnecting a lot of gutters may invite flooding. Although, I'll concede that may be a widespread concern. There are other tools available to homeowners, though. With that said, there is no singular solution to this problem. Rain falls everywhere. Thus, solutions will need to be everywhere. Solving this problem is going to involve everyone; the City, residents, business owners, and developers. Homeowners can get informed and find ideas by reviewing these resources: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/9186/default.aspx http://www.cuyahogaswcd.org/ http://epa.ohio.gov/ocapp/train/tabid/6067/LiveTabId/126540/Default.aspx http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/storm/CGPPCQA.aspx http://www.neorsd.org/stormwaterprogram.php
Christina Cocchiarale Ward November 28, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I disconnect my gutters my basement will flood.
Susan Kaminski November 28, 2012 at 06:03 PM
We've had a rain barrel for several years and it's been a huge help in watering flower and vegetable gardens. It's hooked up behind our garage so it's not a huge eyesore (bright blue). We're thinking of a second barrel because it usually runs out mid-July/early August depending on the rainfall. I know this is a drop in the bucket (pun intended) but it does save on water bills and would reduce water going in the storm drains.

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