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Ohio Greenlights $2.5 Billion Wet Weather Plan for Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 4, 2009 (ENS) - Columbus residents can expect a decrease in sewer overflows and basement backups after rains and snowmelt once the city's newly approved $2.5 billion wet weather management plan is completed.

On Thursday, the Ohio EPA approved the city 's plan to control overflows from the sewer system and proposed modifications to two of the city's wastewater discharge permits.

Columbus submitted its wet weather management plan to Ohio EPA in 2005 in accordance with two separate consent orders issued by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in 2002 and 2004.

The Columbus sewer system currently discharges 1.65 billion gallons of sewer overflow in a typical year. By 2025, these overflows will be reduced to an annual total of about 250 million gallons.

Once all projects are completed, it is estimated that remaining overflows from the system will be reduced to 100 million gallons per year on average, the Ohio EPA said.

A flooded street in a Columbus residential neighborhood, June 2008. (Photo credit unknown)

This remaining overflow volume will not violate water quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life due to the relatively short duration of the discharge - about 15 hours total in an average year - and because the discharge goes to the Scioto River during high river flows, allowing dilution.

But Columbus residents will not have to wait until 2025 for relief. In the 2004 consent order, Columbus also was required to propose interim projects that could reduce the volume of overflow by 2010.

The Ohio EPA approved an interim plan in March 2008 that covers several major projects to meet this requirement. Construction of these projects is now underway and is expected to reduce sewage discharges by 540 million gallons in a typical year by 2010. The total cost for the interim projects is $729 million.

Ohio EPA held an information session and public hearing on September 23, 2008, regarding the Agency's draft approval of the city's wet weather management plan. Ohio EPA considered the public's comments, as well as technical, social, economic and environmental aspects of the plan beforeissuing its final approval.

The approval requires Columbus to submit an affordability analysis and rate study no later than January 9, 2015, a change from the July 1, 2016, date that was in the draft approval.

Ohio EPA also is proposing to modify the wastewater discharge permits for Columbus' Jackson Pike and Southerly wastewater treatment plants. The permit modifications require Columbus to implement the approved wet weather management plan.

As a condition of approval, Ohio EPA will require Columbus to periodically re-evaluate whether the remaining overflows can be further minimized or eliminated and Ohio EPA reserves the right to require additional controls.

Copies of the approval letter and proposed modifications to the city's wastewater discharge permits are online here.

Issuance of the final wet weather management plan can be appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission. Contact ERAC at 614-466-8950 for more information.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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