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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NEWS: What is water worth? "Business case" goes well beyond dollar signs / #CleanWater2015

One can not solve the world's water problems in an hour. But Edwin Pinero used his hour to highlight five components of real solutions to the world's biggest water challenges.

Pinero kicked off The City Club of Cleveland's 2015 Year of Clean Water speaker series, and he was a fine voice to do so. He's the Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Public Affairs of Veolia Water North America, a firm focused on water, wastewater, and energy resources and resource recovery.

The biggest issue we face, in his words: "We understand water is important," he said, "but we lack understanding of the connection between water and every other aspect of our lives."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

PROJECTS: About the Fairhill/MLK Green Ambassador Project in Cleveland

Known as the Fairhill-MLK Green Infrastructure Ambassador Project on the northeast corner of Fairhill Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Cleveland, this functional and aesthetic project will control stormwater and reduce the amount of water reaching the combined sewer system.

Green infrastructure includes a range of stormwater control measures—plant/soil systems, permeable pavement or other forms of stormwater harvest and reuse—to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flows to the combined sewer system. It's an integral part of Project Clean Lake.

Existing conditions at Fairhill-MLK
The Project includes construction of a large basin and installation of new, separate storm sewers along E. 124 Street and portions of Fairhill Road, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Britton Drive, Mt. Overlook Avenue and E. 126 Street. It will manage 17 million gallons of stormwater in a typical year.

Sewer District representatives have held three public meetings offering attendees the opportunity to not only provide their opinion on the project, but also choose many of the aesthetic features.

UPDATE: This pre-construction public-meeting slide deck was presented to the community March 25, 2015. Prior slides describe Project Clean Lake and related work; subsequent slides present greater detail on the design and function of this project.

[View full size]


NEWS: Could sewage be mined for gold? May also be great excuse to grow awesome beards.

Could human waste really be a source of valuable metals? Recent studies have shown potential, but realizing said potential is still a long way off in all likelihood.

The Huffington Post reported on a study that said human waste may be filled with microscopic particles of gold, silver, platinum, and copper, not to mention several other "nuisance" metals like lead.

More specifically, if these particles—measuring less than 1/100th the width of a human hair—are in human waste or at least entering the sewer system by other means, then they'd eventually make their way to wastewater treatment plants, according to studies, and could thereby be harvested for possible reuse, reduce the needs for mining, and also benefit the environment.

Working where we do, we asked a few of our experts.

"While it's an interesting idea," said our Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Frank Foley, when asked if there was any chance we could be sitting on a literal gold mine in our collection system, "I’m not sure if we currently have information that would allow us to quantify the amount of precious metals in our ash."

Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, Cleveland
Ash is the byproduct of the incineration that manages the "biosolids," organic materials left over from the wastewater treatment process.

He continued: "Another key, stated in the articles is that there would be a cost to extracting the metals from the ash. That would also have to be quantified to determine if it would be worth attempting to recover any of the material." Research presented in Denver this week said the recovery of these metals using current technology "may not be commercially viable."

Translation: Waaaaay too expensive.

Precious metals like these are not in our treatment plant permit limits, says Senior Environmental Specialist Elizabeth Toot-Levy, so we don't monitor for them. That makes an assessment more difficult. And while we do monitor industries like plating companies to make sure they are not discharging metals to the waste stream, one we have spoken to in the past about gold plating stated it takes extra precautions to ensure that their precious products are not flushed away.

So could sewage be a future source of the metals that make their way into our cell phones and computers? Time and further study will tell. In the meantime, we'll keep our eyes on what does flow into our plant, because you never know what you'll find.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PROFILE: From veterinary medicine to sewage treatment, here's how Christen "fell in love" with her unexpected career

A former lab analyst and now Wastewater Plant Operator, Christen Wood’s career path has led her from veterinary medicine to sewage treatment. We asked her about opportunities in Wastewater Operations.

How did you get into wastewater?

I sort of fell into it! The local paper ran a column on the “brain drain” in Ashtabula, why we weren’t able to get qualified candidates into jobs there. I wrote a thank-you letter to the editor for covering the topic, and as soon as the letter ran, the Ashtabula wastewater treatment plant called me and said, “We need you to apply now."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

#WorldWaterDay: If water is so boring that it's "no big deal," then that's exactly why it's a very big deal.

Photo courtesy Drink Local. Drink Tap.

Go ahead. Flush. Don't think twice about it.

Turn the tap. No big deal.

Start the laundry, fill your tub, wash you hands, whatever. It's just water.

The simple fact that we can consider a precious resource and the complex system it takes to bring it to and from our homes safely "no big deal" is exactly why World Water Day March 22 should be a very big deal.

What is World Water Day? World Water Day, established by the United Nations in 1993, was originally launched to promote to the importance of fresh water and bring attention to water-resource management and sanitation challenges around the world.

NEWS: Infrastructure "shouldn't be controversial," says President Obama in City Club of Cleveland Q&A

President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of 500 guests at the Global Center for Health and Innovation yesterday, focusing his remarks on the federal budget, middle-class economics and manufacturing opportunities.

But both infrastructure and environmental regulation made it into the President's comments as he welcomed questions from the audience after his speech.

"What has surprised me," said President Obama, when asked what has surprised him most since beginning his first term, "even though I had served in the Senate, was the continued difficulties in Congress getting stuff done that shouldn’t be controversial." He continued:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

VIDEO: 3 water messages you won't hear from @BarackObama at @TheCityClub but should.

It's another amazing Cleveland day as President Barack Obama will be speaking at the City Club later this afternoon.

But it's unlikely he'll talk about his dog Bo's poop.

No worries! Since he's in Cleveland, we asked him* for his official polices on three key platforms. Here's what he had to say.

Obama says #DontFlushWipes

Obama says #DogsCantFlush

Obama says #PitchThosePills

Thanks to our own Wastewater Plant Operator Ryan Melton for his talents. Nice suit, too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

EVENTS: The most unique 5K you'll ever run returns June 6. Register today. #cwc5K

We manage more than 480 kilometers of sewer. These 5 may just be the most interesting.

Our annual Clean Water Classic 5K is back for the third year and we're opening the festivities to the public once again, promoting wellness and raising money for our Charity Choice campaign to benefit United Way.

More details are coming soon, but you can register by downloading and completing the form below. Register before June 3 for a discounted $20 rate and the first 100 get a #cwc5K T-shirt as well.


The Clean Water Classic, launched first as an employee fundraising initiative, was opened to the public last year as an opportunity to showcase one of the state's largest treatment plants of its kind while promoting wellness and community outreach.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

COMMUNITY: Partnering for a bigger impact in education, awareness, action

Interns spend a morning at Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center at West Creek.

The District maintains partnerships with local organizations whose work to enhance quality of life in Northeast Ohio aligns with our own mission to protect water quality. By leveraging our partner resources, we broaden the public’s understanding of, and support for, our work. Here's a closer look at some of the work we're doing together.

Cleveland Metroparks
In 2013, the Sewer District partnered with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and WKYC TV-3 to educate viewers about water quality at area beaches, and swimming safety updates were posted via Twitter. In addition, a new partnership with Cleveland Metroparks that included the District purchasing beach-cleaning machines resulted in better overall quality for Euclid Beach and Edgewater Park.

Also in 2013, the District and Metroparks celebrated the dedication of the Watershed Stewardship Center at West Creek in Parma. The District supported the center with $3 million towards construction and permanent on-site staff. The Center received a 2013 “Award of Excellence” from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, and is an opportunity to expand the District’s watershed- and environmental-education efforts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

GREEN: Um yeah, even wastewater's not supposed to look like this. #StPatricksDay

Green is the color of the St. Patrick's Day holiday and the Chicago River that is dyed for celebration, but some colors come with questions.

Especially when they're not supposed to be there.

Southerly Assistant Superintendent Kevin Zebrowski shared that oddly colored green water has come flowing into our Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant several times before, like the time shown here from 2007.

"We isolated it," he said of this example, working with our investigators to determine possible sources of three separate incidents.

"We suspected and installed downstream samplers for a company [within our service area] which manufactures dye for plastics. It stopped with no other events."

"At a similar time [2008], Akron had a similar event where the EPA caught someone dumping powdered green dye in the sanitary sewer," he said.

If all the water at a treatment plant is being treated anyway, does the color coming into the plant matter? Kevin said yes. "We have had in our permit that we cannot discharge effluent [the treated water] with any color." Treatment plant staff and our Water Quality & Industrial Surveillance Team collaborate to track down the cause.

Investigators can use any number of clues coming from the flow to find the source and take necessary action. Our laboratory conducts nearly 200,000 tests on more than 25,000 samples every year to ensure the processes in our plants and the quality of our effluent is safe.

Southerly is not the only plant to face issues of colorful influent, he said. "At Westerly [in Cleveland], there was a printing company that would often clean their process tanks; our operators would see various colors coming into the plant. They would sometimes get red which would interfere with the laboratory running tests."


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

EVENTS: Celebrate #WorldWaterDay weekend with @CLEaquarium, @goCMNH, @CleveMetroparks

World Water Day is a celebration of the resource many of us take for granted and the work it takes to keep it clean.

It's worth celebrating in a special way this year—Cleveland's Year of Clean Water—and there are three fun family opportunities to do so March 20-22.

Enjoy the Greater Cleveland Aquarium with Drink Local. Drink Tap. the morning of Friday, March 20, stop by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History on Saturday, March 21 and then round out the festivities at World Water Day Sunday at the Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center at West Creek. Each event will be filled with hands-on activities, photo opportunities, and more.

See a complete list of 2015 Year of Clean Water events on Cleveland Water Alliance's 2015 event calendar, and the more you attend, the more chances you have to win their Year of Clean Water Tour & Sweepstakes.

Monday, March 2, 2015

LOOK: Treatment-plant steam coats trees with icy crystals

A winter wastewater wonderland?

When the temps drop below freezing and the wastewater flowing through our treatment plants' outdoor tanks is a near-constant 50ºF, the result is a whole lotta steam cascading across the plant landscape. Southerly Operator Christen Wood sent us a beautiful photo of the result.

The steam freezes to nearby trees. The ice crystals didn't last long, though; she sent a follow-up photo a few short hours later after the sunrise.