Protect. Explore. Enjoy.  One way we can live up to this motto in Lake Erie and Northeast Ohio is to work towards eliminating raw sewage overflows from entering our rivers and streams. And you can help make this happen!

 

raw-sewage

Raw sewage enters our lakes and streams when heavy rains and extreme storm events overwhelm our sewer and wastewater infrastructure.  In communities where stormwater and sewage pipes are combined, overflows can happen when a deluge of stormwater forces wastewater treatment plants to bypass treatment – sending untreated storm and sanitary effluent directly through piped outfalls into the waterways where we swim and fish!

In communities that have completely separate sanitary lines, sewage overflows can still occur when there are crossovers, weak joints, and cracks in sanitary sewer lines through which, due to rising water tables, infiltrated groundwater causes increased water pressure in sewer pipelines that may result in blowouts at sewer manholes.

 

One way to reduce overflows is to reduce the amount of stormwater that enters our combined systems.  In CSO communities, green infrastructure projects such as installing rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofing, and permeable pavement may accomplish this goal.  Larger projects include constructing interceptor tunnels, retention basins, and wetlands.  You can also reduce sanitary flows by conserving your water use at home during storm events and waiting until after the storm has passed to flush, wash your clothes, take a shower, etc.

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 Rainbarrel art donated by Aveda Salons during Earth Month 2014

Another way we can make a positive impact on our stressed sewers is by sharing information.  The Sierra Club asks that you report overflowing manholes and burst pipes to your city engineer’s office, and take note if and when you see effluent flowing into a river from an outfall pipe during dry weather.**  Since basement flooding can happen as a result of overwhelmed sewage and stormwater infrastructure, be sure to report basement flooding events as well.  This kind of information will help city planners and regional sewer agencies efficiently identify, prioritize, and ameliorate problems with our sewer systems.

To help with this data collection effort regionally, the Sierra Club has developed a survey for reporting basement flood events in Northeast Ohio.  If you have experienced a basement flood event within the past five years, tell us more about your experience by completing the survey through the link below.

Go to the Basement Flooding Survey

 

**If you are unsure where to report a burst pipe, overflowing manhole, or leaky outfall, contact jessica.ferrato@sierraclub.org or a member of your local water committee.