Thrusday, December 31, 1998

$8 million solution for sewer overflow

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Quiet cooperation between the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is expected to dramatically reduce the number of times sewage spills into the Ohio River from the central riverfront.

        That reduction is especially important because of the city's plans to build a grand park on the central riverfront and hold community events like Oktoberfest and Tall Stacks there.

        “Most of your better parks don't have sewer overflows,” quipped County Commission President Tom Neyer Jr. “This is one of those opportunities to help a number of developments with one improvement.”

        Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday approved the $8 million sewer improvement, which the Metropolitan Sewer District estimates will reduce by 70 percent the number of sewage spills into the river each year.

        The work is being done in conjunction with the city's $146.9 million overhaul of Fort Washington Way.

        The highway project made it necessary to move the sewer, and fixing the problem now is much cheaper than waiting until after the riverfront redevelopment is completed, said Paul Tomes, the sewer district's acting director.

        “It is taking advantage of all the work that's going on down there at one time,” Mr. Tomes said. “We estimate the costs would be double to go back and do it later.”

        There are now four so-called combined sewer overflows along the riverfront. The overflows are points where, after heavy rainfall, rain water and sewage combine and spill into the river.

        The solution commissioners approved Wednesday will eliminate three of those combined sewer overflows, leaving one at Central Avenue.

        Mr. Tomes estimates that instead of 70 or 80 overflows a year, the new system will have only about 10.

        Such overflows were a source of serious community concern in 1991 because of toxic chemicals that were spilled into waterways along with the rain water and human waste.

        The city and the sewer district have worked for years to correct those problems, and the Fort Washington Way project finally presented a good solution for the riverfront overflows, said former Cincinnati Councilwoman Bobbie Sterne, who worked on the issue for years.

        In recent years, the overflows have spilled between 6 million and 8 millions gallons of combined storm water and sewage into the river annually, Mr. Tomes said.

        That's not enough to have much impact on water quality, Mr. Tomes said, but officials think eliminating most of it will be a great aesthetic benefit.

        “That didn't matter when it was just parking lots and industrial uses down there,” said Steven Schuckman, a city parks official overseeing design of the riverfront park.


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