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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Consent decree open for public comment through Jan. 28

The Sewer District's combined sewer overflow (CSO) long-term control plan consent decree, a 25-year agreement with the Federal government to reduce sewage discharges to the environment, was posted in the Federal Register today, beginning the 30-day public-comment period. Here are the instructions for making comments, and the comment period ends January 28, 2011. Known as Project Clean Lake, the initiative will reduce annual sewage discharges to the environment from 4.5 billion gallons to 0.49 billion gallons.


The Department of Justice is now accepting public comments regarding the consent decree negotiated between the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), the Department of Justice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio Attorney General. The consent decree outlines NEORSD’s plan to reduce raw sewage discharges into the environment.

The Department of Justice will receive comments for a period of 30 days. Comments should be addressed to:

Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division
P.O. Box 7611

U.S. Department of Justice

Washington, DC 20044–7611
Refer to: United States v. Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District D.J. Ref. 90–5–1–1–08177/1

Comments are also accepted via e-mail and may be sent to, referencing the same case.

Background Information:
On December 2, 2010, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) Board of Trustees agreed to enter into a consent decree with the federal government by a 5-2 vote. The $3 billion, 25-year program known as Project Clean Lake will reduce the total volume of raw sewage discharges from 4.5 billion gallons to 494 million gallons annually, so that over 98 percent of wet weather flows in the combined sewer system will be treated in a typical year. The program will enable NEORSD to meet Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements.

The CWA employs a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory tools to reduce direct pollutant discharges into waterways and manage polluted runoff. The CWA requires anyone who discharges pollutants to first obtain a permit from the EPA, or the discharges will be considered illegal. Although the NEORSD has reduced raw sewage discharges significantly over the years and holds permits for discharge points, the EPA considers NEORSD in violation of the CWA because not all overflows have been controlled to required levels.

“Since 1972, the Sewer District has reduced the amount of raw sewage discharging into the environment by half--from 9 billion gallons in early 1970s to 4.5 billion gallons today,” said Julius Ciaccia, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. “This plan will compliment the District’s past work while helping us to comply with the Clean Water Act.”

Like those in other mid-west cities, sewers in Greater Cleveland were designed and built to transport both sanitary sewage and rain water in one pipe. During a heavy rain event the pipe can become too full, discharging raw sewage into the environment. Like NEORSD, many mid-west cities including Cincinnati, Columbus and Kansas City, are required to implement a long-term plan to address wet weather discharges. In total, there are 772 communities across the country facing similar sewer problems, including 86 in the State of Ohio. Most of those cities are under or are negotiating similar consent decrees and are raising rates accordingly.

Since 2004, NEORSD has negotiated with state and federal environmental regulators to obtain approval of its long-term plans to reduce raw sewage discharges, the last of which was submitted to the state in 2002. To date, the NEORSD has spent approximately $45.1 million in engineering, attorney’s and expert fees to develop the plan to reduce raw sewage discharges and negotiate a Consent Decree. Specific issues included the length of time required to complete construction projects, the cost of the program, and affordability. In 2010, the parties agreed on a mutually acceptable proposal.

A copy of the Consent Decree and related appendices is available online at:

The notice published in Federal Register is also available online:

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Jean Chapman

Public Information Specialist

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Jennifer Elting

Public Information Specialist

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District



  1. how can people afford a increase of 300 percent

  2. @anonymous: Many customers share your concern. We are finishing a rate study that will recommend our fee schedule for the years 2012-2016, and part of that will be an assessment of possible affordability programs to lessen the financial burden on more customers. We will post more information on any new programs or adjustments as information becomes available.

  3. what will happen when the people cut back on water usage are they going to raise the water rates then ask the citizens for a larger increase in sewer rates

  4. what will happen when these increases come infect to all the school districts hurting for money lay more teachers off or cut sports out

  5. @anonymous: There is no shortage of economic challenges in our region, and we are considering such factors in our 2012-2016 rate study. As a point of clarification, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is responsible for wastewater (dirty water flowing from your house into drains) treatment and related fees; the Cleveland Water Department is responsible for the water coming into your home and its related fees and charges. Depending on where you live, both NEORSD and Cleveland Water may appear on the same bill because of our working relationship, rather than a shared responsibility.

  6. i don't understand one thing if we are having so much problem with the stormwater going in are drains why are letting developers build shopping centers where there once were golf courses

  7. @anonymous: You raise a good question. We do not have control over land use (how a piece of land is developed as a golf course, shopping center, residential subdivision, etc.). But we can work with developers, the city in which the property is located, and interested residents to ensure that if the land (in this example, a golf course) is further developed, it is done so with the best site- and watershed-appropriate stormwater-control measures. Such measures would take advantage of existing site characteristics (like sandy soils, wetlands, or streams) that allow for stormwater infiltration, ensure distributed stormwater practices across the site, and minimize runoff to the greatest extent. If you are referring to a specific site, we can talk further. Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, our Manager of Watershed Programs, can speak with you at 216-881-6600 ext 6414 or

  8. Good Day anonymous, please see the blog
    by Jane Goodman for some good reaction and factual information.
    Take care


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