At least $100 million worth of construction will improve the city’s sewer system this season as part of a federally mandated pollution clean-project.
The year of 2012 marks the most active year yet over the course of Toledo Waterways Initiative’s (TWI) 10-year history, said George Robinson II, deputy director of Toledo’s Department of Public Utilities.
Crews will start five new projects this year, continue working on three and will finish another three by the end of the year, he announced at a news conference April 30.
Some highlights include removing muck — for the first time since the 1980s or ’90s — from a mile-long combined sewer overflow tunnel that runs under Lagrange and Superior streets, as well as tunnels that run along Hamilton Street and Walbridge Avenue.
Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) were designed to collect sanitary, industrial wastewater and stormwater runoff. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not permit installing these types of systems anymore. The volume of wastewater — which is typically loaded with toxins, biohazards and debris — might exceed treatment plants’ capacities and thus overflow into the nearest ditch or body of water, according to the Ohio EPA’s website.
The site states that these systems are often responsible for beach closings, fishing restrictions and other water problems.
The EPA ordered that the city clean up its act in the early 1990s but city administrations fought it. The EPA then took the city to court and by 2001 the U.S. District Court in Toledo handed down a consent decree that required the city expand its treatment plant, eliminate sanitary sewer overflows and reduce the number of CSOs. Voters approved this in 2002, which created the TWI and marked the end of more than 10 years of battle between the EPA and the city.
Phase One of the TWI began shortly thereafter, commencing a major expansion of the Bay View Wastewater Treatment Plant to stop all releases of untreated sewage from the plant. This phase also included eliminating all sanitary sewer overflows throughout the city, as well as developing a long-term plan to control CSOs, said Dave Welch, director of public utilities.
Phase Two, which began in 2008, includes 25 projects throughout the city’s neighborhoods, with the goal of reducing the number of CSOs, he said.
All of this work will cost an estimated $521 million.
Each quarter, $15 worth of your water bill funds the TWI.
Councilman Joe McNamara said that Toledoans want to know why their water rates are so high — and this is why.
Robinson said the $15 per ratepayer was not an increase, but an appropriation made starting in 2011. The amount will be reassessed in 2015, but taxpayers will be paying off the consent decree long after the last shovel drops because the city has taken out loans to accomplish a lot of the work, he said.
He pointed out that the Bay View Wastewater Treatment Plant has not discharged any untreated wastewater into the Maumee River since the wet weather facility went online in 2007.
The goal is to finish all projects by 2020.