Heavy rainstorms can cause local stream flooding and erosion problems, as well as cause some older sewers to exceed their capacities. But in winter months, do blizzards like the one we anticipate this evening induce the same water-related issues?
"Actually, the snow is just rain waiting to melt," said Ed Haller, assistant superintendent at the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Center in Cuyahoga Heights. As he explained, the same stormwater problems can and do occur, but not until all that snow begins to melt.
"The more snow we accumulate, the greater the flow we get [at the treatment facilities] when the temperature goes above freezing. On a warmer January or February day when most people get out of their homes for a moment to enjoy the sunshine, the [wastewater treatment plant] operators can be dealing with flows at the plant equivalent to a heavy rainstorm."
One component of the District's 25-year Project Clean Lake program is the reduction of combined sewer overflows during these heavy rains through a combination of underground and environmentally sustainable surface projects. The tunnels, some more than 20 feet in diameter and hundreds of feet underground, will hold millions of gallons of stormwater and melting snow, slowly releasing the flow for proper treatment and preventing discharges of sewage to the environment.