AKRON, Ohio – The City of Akron announced Thursday that the fifth and final sewer overflow basin has been put into service as required under a federally mandated agreement to reduce pollution flowing into the Cuyahoga River.
The Hazel Storage Basin is next to Wellington Avenue in Akron’s Goodyear Heights neighborhood and it can hold 4.5 million gallons of sewage and stormwater that would otherwise overtax the treatment system and run directly into nearby streams and rivers.
The storage basin will allow for the treatment of 28.8 million gallons in a typical year, according to the city.
The city has now constructed and connected five basins, which can store up to 17 million gallons of sewage and stormwater overflow during heavy rainfall. During a year with typical rainfall, Akron can store and treat 154 million gallons.
“Completing all of the required CSO storage basins is a significant accomplishment which not only fulfills the basin requirements of the consent decree but, more importantly, improves the water quality of our rivers and streams,” said Patrick Gsellman, Akron Waterways Renewed program manager.
Construction of the Hazel Storage Basin required building the basin itself, constructing diversion structures, a control building and lining and repairing about 4,000 feet of existing sewer, according to the city. The project was coordinated by the Akron Engineering Bureau, with MS Consultants as the designer, The Great Lakes Construction Company as the contractor and H.R. Gray, an Anser Advisory company, for construction management services.
It was completed on July 23 – 161 days ahead of schedule – and the construction contract was $28 million. The engineer had estimated the project would cost $35 million.
“During these extraordinary times, it is a significant accomplishment that this project was still completed 23 weeks ahead of schedule, and under budget,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This basin will provide for significant improvements to the water quality of the Little Cuyahoga River as it flows through the heart of Akron.”
With the basins in service, Akron reported Thursday it has completed 81% of the major projects required under the EPA mandate. Three projects are under construction: the Kelly Green project, Memorial Conveyance project and the Water Reclamation Facility BioCEPT project.
Two projects are in the design and planning stage: the Northside Tunnel Project and a treatment facility at the end of the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, known as the EHRT. The Northside Tunnel Project currently calls for a tunnel, 20-feet in diameter and 10,000-feet long, with the capacity to treat 23 million gallons with no overflow in a typical year. It would cost about $253 million, according to the city. The EHRT is required to treat up to seven overflows from the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, so there will be zero untreated overflows in a typical year.
All projects are on track for completion by 2027, and all projects except the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel have been ahead of schedule, the city said. In January, a federal judge ordered a law professor to review Akron’s compliance with the tunnel project after the city missed a deadline.
Akron is seeking to modify the final projects required under the agreement, citing “updated modeling” that shows some projects wouldn’t be as beneficial to the environment as initially expected.
The city claims that, “based on real time data and better than expected performance of completed projects,” engineers expect three to four overflows from the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, rather than seven.
“This means that the $66 million EHRT project would have minimal environmental impact,” the city said in a news release. “The City of Akron identified a better approach through an integrated planning process and will seek a third consent decree modification.”
The modification would eliminate the Northside Tunnel Project, and instead call for a “more environmentally-friendly sewer separation project still achieving zero overflows in a typical year, and to eliminate the costly EHRT requirement,” the city said.
If a judge grants Akron’s request, it would mean the city could spend some of that money on removing the Gorge Dam. The U.S. EPA gave Akron a $1 million grant in July for the removal of the Gorge Dam, which river advocates have called one of the Cuyahoga River’s biggest unresolved water quality problems.
“Removing the Dam would improve water quality, including improved oxygen, flow, and temperature in the Cuyahoga River, while supporting the return of natural habitats,” Horrigan said. “Returning the river to its free-flowing state has a greater environmental and community benefit than treating a very small number of overflows, and will lead to benefits that can be enjoyed 365 days a year. If the City is required to build the EHRT, it is unlikely there will be City funds available for the Gorge Dam removal.”
Spokespeople for the EPAs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Originally posted: Cleveland.com