All that glitters is greenWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo has a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because our combined sewer and storm system, when overwhelmed, releases excess sewage, called a combined sewer overflow (CSO). Millions of dollars are being spent to separate the systems to avoid CSOs, so raw sewage will not be released into the watershed.
The Maywood Project is taking place in North Toledo on Maywood Avenue. Using rain gardens, bioswales, porous pavement, rain barrels and other green infrastructure, the goal is to reduce the amount of rainwater that enters into the city’s storm sewers and to improve water quality.
On July 14, Toledo City Councilman Michael Ashford said, “I’m glad the project started in District 4, mainly because the city needs to move in a new direction and become more eco-friendly. This project in the long haul will reduce storm runoff, as well as save money at the water plant. Most cities are moving into this technology, saving millions of dollars and helping the environment.”
The Ohio EPA awarded the Division of Environmental Services $805,000 with an additional $122,971 being awarded from the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the Maywood Project. Monitoring will take place to measure how much water is being prevented from entering the storm sewers.
Toledo GROWS, Lucas Soil and Water Conservation District and Toledo-Lucas County Rain Garden Initiative have joined the City of Toledo in the Maywood Project. Youth from the Lucas County Green Jobs Corps began installing rain barrels and rain gardens July 13 and 15 at the homes of residents who volunteered to participate.
In October 2008, Councilman Joe McNamara attended the American Rivers Green Infrastructure Tour. One of the cities on the itinerary was Chicago, where McNamara witnessed this technology in action. The EPA lists Chicago as one of its green infrastructure case study cities. Another case study city, Philadelphia, has reported saving $170 million from the reduction in CSO since 2006 using similar techniques to those being used on Maywood Avenue.
McNamara introduced legislation asking the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission to update the city’s zoning code to allow for expanded use of green infrastructure. It was approved by members of Toledo City Council on Dec. 16, 2008. One area of focus was permeable or porous pavement; this pavement allows water to seep into the ground instead of creating a runoff into storm sewers.
Steve Steel, now a member of Council, was at that time Toledo Public Schools (TPS) Board president. At a press conference with McNamara in December 2008, Bowsher High School’s use of pervious concrete was cited as an example of how governmental construction projects can use green techniques. Steel said, “Environmental sustainability is fully compatible with economic development. It makes sense to use public investment to leverage support for forward-thinking projects utilizing local enterprises. It’s the right thing to do for our kids and for their future.”
McNamara said July 14, “The Maywood Project is an excellent test of how green infrastructure works in Toledo.”
A news release on July 13 from the Mayor Mike Bell administration said, “Similar projects have been constructed in the Northwest region of the country, but this is one of the first of its kind in the Great Lakes Region.”
With efforts like the Maywood Project and Hawkins Elementary School, which was this area’s first TPS U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) qualifier, and the Huntington Center, one of the nation’s first LEED-certified professional sports arenas, the Toledo area is heading in a new direction: A green one.
On the web: www.raingardeninitiative.org.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog Glass City Jungle.