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Thursday, January 30, 2014

GREEN: Our Project Clean Lake agreement was groundbreaking, and here are 7 reasons why.

Project Clean Lake was a groundbreaking agreement in 2010 when we signed it, making our 25-year program to reduce pollution in Lake Erie official. A lot has happened in the last four years and our consent decree is still a groundbreaking agreement for the region and clean-water agencies across the country.

Here are seven reasons why.

LEGEND: Story of toilet surge during big game is a lasting #SewerBowl urban myth

MetLife Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday, February 2, 2014. Courtesy Wikipedia.

The story goes something like this.

Just after the Super Bowl's second quarter, millions of fans rush to their bathrooms for relief, leading to a tremendous flush-induced surge in sewer systems across the country, large enough that some cities' sewers have failed or ruptured because of it.

The fact is that it's never happened. Snopes and many other local outlets have debunked the urban legend. However, one story did say that back in the 1950s and 1960s, sanitation districts of Los Angeles County could tell when there was a commercial during popular shows like "I Love Lucy," but it hardly confirms the myth of Super Bowl lore.

Following Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, I asked Westerly Treatment Plant in Cleveland for any flow statistics around game time to see if there was any significant surge before, during, or after the game. Our stats showed no noticeable change in flow patterns at all on game day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SUPER BOWL: How does infrastructure play into the Big Game? #SewerBowl will live-tweet the flow facts

A recent survey shows 60% of Super Bowl viewers plan to use a mobile device while watching the big game.

While we haven't commissioned a [Dr. Evil style air quotes] "sur-vey" [end air quotes], our intuition tells us 100% of Super Bowl viewers also will either use the bathroom, run a faucet, or flush a toilet sometime during the game.

That gives us plenty to talk about.

This Sunday's Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will feature our first ever #SewerBowl: Live-tweeting from our @wallywaterdrop and @neorsd Twitter accounts as we share some unexpected sewer and infrastructure stats along with the live action.

EDUCATION: Bathroom signage to promote thinking twice about sustainability? They're not wastes of time, they're #StallTactics.

Statistics show we use the restroom about seven times every day. That means public restrooms get a lot of use, and based on the amount of wastewater we treat every day, we know that from experience.

In 2013, your Sewer District found some unique opportunities to educate and communicate in the very place where our business begins. Bathrooms.

Monday, January 27, 2014

PIC: Just Oprah fixing her toilet.

Originally posted at

Even media queen Oprah Winfrey needs to take care of her throne.

Gayle King, a friend of Oprah's, shared a photo earlier this month that proves anyone can benefit by knowing a thing or two about household plumbing basics.

Thanks to NYC Water for sharing a story that featured the pics, but the story itself was even better: "Seizing the throne," a quick counsel on common toilet maintenance. Complete with a handy graphic:

Friday, January 24, 2014

GREEN: 78 green infrastructure projects you might not realize are part of Cleveland's present, future

If you run in sustainability circles nowadays, it's a phrase you hear a lot: Green infrastructure, green infrastructure, green infrastructure.

But in Cleveland, you might not be aware of just how many green infrastructure projects are planned or under construction right now in the Cleveland area. Seventy-eight, to be exact:

The purple area in the map above indicates an area served by combined sewers—sewers that carry both sewage and stormwater in the same pipe. It includes most of the City of Cleveland and portions of 11 surrounding communities, the region covered by Project Clean Lake, our 25-year consent decree that will reduce combined-sewer-overflow pollution by billions of gallons by 2035.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

FLUSH: China has a waterfall made of toilet bowls. Of course it does.

We've seen toilet bowls turned into planters, tricycles, and bathroom mirrors, but in China, hundreds of recycled toilet bowls have been turned into a waterfall.

The construction of it looks amazing, and it's all operated by a single flush.

We see this as a great education opportunity to teach about the urban water cycle: The water that fills these hundreds of bowls flows down and through and back up to the top to be flushed again.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PIC: Sure, some Olympic sports are synchronized, but this? [#h2olympics]

It's fitting to promote unity at the Olympic games, but this might not be what many expected.

BBC's Steve Rosenberg shared this photo of a men's restroom at one of the Olympic venues in Sochi yesterday. It's gotten a lot of attention, and may very well be an anomaly rather than indicative of the facilities at all venues, but Rosenberg's subsequent tweets indicate otherwise.

Friday, January 17, 2014

BUSINESS: You might not think of our work, but we know exactly how to treat your business right.

We treat almost 200 million gallons of wastewater every day. That means 90 billion gallons a year, and that means we know business.

By any euphemism you prefer, the wastewater you flush, flowing through hundreds of miles of sewers under your feet in Northeast Ohio, is treated safely and returned to Lake Erie. We understand what clean water means to public health, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

Cleveland and its surrounding communities are built upon a sewer network that, in places, dates back to the 1870s. We're proud to be the foundation on which Cleveland is making its comeback, and with more than $3 billion of regional infrastructure investments planned through 2035, our work will be part of an even cleaner future for businesses, residents, and our environment.

“We hope that people realize that infrastructure is more than convention centers and bridges: billions of dollars of investment are just below your feet," said Jenn Elting, Public Information Specialist at the Sewer District.

So next time you get down to business, rest assured we'll do what it takes to keep our Great Lake great.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

FUN: More proof headline writers love wastewater-treatment stories

Well played, KTOO.

WATER: How many tests in one year? Almost 200,000 help protect our lake.

West Virginia's water-contamination saga is shining the spotlight on water quality, regulations, contaminants and public health.

Clean water is at the heart of our work, but our attention is commonly focused on the wastewater side of the water cycle. How do we monitor our treatment processes and the environment to make sure the water we're releasing to Lake Erie is safe?

Tests. Lots and lots of tests. In 2013, our Analytical Services department—our biologists, chemists and laboratory analysts—conducted nearly 200,000 tests, averaging more than 530 separate tests every day. That includes tests conducted on more than 25,000 samples collected from streams, beaches, and our treatment plants.

Here's a closer look at our lab stats from last year:

Monday, January 13, 2014

MEDIA: Golden Globes red carpet soaked with sewage. Please stop snickering.

Last night's Golden Globes red carpet included a cameo appearance no one expected: Water.

On Sunday afternoon, Ryan Seacrest tweeted a photo of a flooded red carpet, caused by either a sprinkler system malfunction or a sewage leak.

The Hollywood Reporter indicated the leak was a result of a fire sprinkler, but several other media outlets referencing the same story said it actually was a burst wastewater pipe that "flooded the crimson walkway with black sewage."

Whether water or wastewater, the story shines a spotlight on the importance of (and challenges facing) reliable water infrastructure, something we take very seriously. As for the humor in the potential that it was indeed sewage, well, we'll leave that to Twitter.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

PIC: You never know what creatures you'll find in the sludge

Image by Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

O the wonderful world under the microscope.

Our Biologist Carrie Millward sent us this image of a non-biting midge larvae she found in a sample of solid material (sludge) in our treatment process. They look scary, but they're common in wastewater. As they grow up, they become a good indicator of water quality.

We'll need to add this one to our list of scariest-looking microscopic creepy-crawlies for sure. Thanks, Carrie!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WEIRD: Sewer clogged by a pile of undergarments [facepalm here]

One of the most common sewer clogs in many cities sewer systems recently has been disposable wipes. They don't play nice with your plumbing many wastewater treatment systems.

Neither do underpants.

Yes, true story—this one out of the UK—Severn Trent Water reports that a sewer in the town of Shropshire was clogged and causing backups, until crews discovered and removed the culprit: "piles of pants that had been flushed down a toilet, somewhere nearby."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

WOW: Bubbling tanks, frigid temps result in wondrous icy landscape

Well that's not something we see every day.

These open-air aeration tanks inject air bubbles into the wastewater during the treatment process at our Southerly plant, but this event is something rarely seen before.

Here's what the tanks look like in normal conditions (left image), bubbling and swirling to support microorganisms that help consume germs in the water.

But as temps bottomed out last night (above), nearing almost 40 degrees below zero with the wind chill, the surfaces froze, but water continued to bubble through holes in the ice. The result is an amazing array of ice pillars silhouetted against the morning sky in Cuyahoga Heights.

Does the ice affect this part of the treatment process? Yes and no, Wastewater Plant Operator in Training Christen Wood told me.

"The air is in the channel to encourage mixing and prevent freezing," she said, but the "insanely cold" temps like recently are very rare. The ice "probably will even melt during the day today. The microorganisms themselves are harder to grow in the winter, so we keep a higher percentage of them around all winter long" to compensate.

She added that the wastewater coming into the plant is fairly warm already when compared to the environment around it, and that helps "keep the bugs alive until spring."

Hat tip to Southerly's own Nick Fillipelli for the photo, and to Christen Wood for passing it our way.

Monday, January 6, 2014

TIPS: How to build an igloo. Plus 7 other ways to protect home, self during deep freeze

Image credit wikipedia

Social media across Ohio is teeming with all sorts of winter tips, and they're good ones based on the deep freeze hitting us today.

Here are eight more handy winter resources, from plumbing safety to traveling tips, including two that might not have made other local lists.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

PUP: Dogs tend to poop in alignment with Earth's magnetic field, study finds

If you thought your dog was picky when it came to him finding the perfect spot for his business, a new study suggests he might have an excuse.

Researchers in Prague have concluded dogs have a tendency to poop along a north-south axis that lines up with the Earth's magnetic field.

Lest you think this is just some baseless claim, this team did their homework, examining 70 dogs, 37 breeds, 5,582 urinations, and almost 2,000 defecations over a two-year period.

Scientists said the research opens new doors into understanding "organisms' use of magnetic fields for direction, as well as magnetic fields produced by living organisms."

It's interesting to us because we want dog-owners to be responsible and pick up after their pets. It's polite and protects water quality. Maybe this new report will help homeowners know where to place the signs on their tree lawns.

Friday, January 3, 2014

REVIEW: Can we sum up 365 days in just 8 topics? Worth a try.

We penned 120 blog posts in 2013, highlighting projects, issues, progress and humor to help customers better understand our work. Here were some of our top stories and how we covered them. Thanks to Mike Uva for the recap.

Mackenzie finishes big dig

We celebrated our 1,500-ton Tunnel Boring Machine’s successful three-mile excavation of the Euclid Creek Tunnel, completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Mackenzie was named “International Project of the Year” by the Tunnelling Association of Canada.