Hurricane Sandy Has an Ohio Wastewater Utility Operating Above Capacity
The megastorm’s effects reach far, far inland.
Hurricane Sandy–after thrashing the mid-Atlantic Coast, leaving millions without power and submerging large swaths of the New York City waterfront–is inundating wastewater treatment plants nearly 800 kilometers (500 miles) inland.
Jean Chapman, a spokeswoman for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which serves roughly 1.2 million customers in the Cleveland area, told Circle of Blue that its Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant on the Cuyahoga River near Cuyahoga Heights is discharging a “significant amount” of untreated wastewater and stormwater into the river. The exact volume is not known.
The Cuyahoga River at Independence, Ohio, just a few miles upstream from the Southerly plant was almost 1.5 meters (5 feet) above flood stage when it crested late this morning at 6.3 m (20.8 ft).
The sewer district fully or partially treated nearly 5.7 billion liters (1.5 billion gallons) in the last 24 hours at the three facilities it operates–more than triple the daily average.
“Everything is at capacity,” said Chapman.
The most serious risk, however, is diminishing.
Chapman said that the Southerly plant would not be able to treat water at all if the river rose above 7.6 m (25 ft) because of back ups that would occur in the outfall pipe. According to National Weather Service hydrographs, the river has already crested.
Circle of Blue reporter
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton
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