EPA orders Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky to clean up sewers

Current system is illegal

Fixing our sewer systems costs a lot of money.

Between the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) in Cincinnati andthe Northern Kentucky Sanitation District, ratepayers could belooking at over $6 billion by 2025.

The Federal EPA has told communities across the United States,including those in the Tri-State, that their sewer systems don'tmeet water quality standards.

The problem is the design of Sanitary Sewer Overflows,(SSOs).

During heavy rainstorms, they allow excess stormwater, mixedwith raw sewage, to overwhelm the capacity of the treatment plantsand be shunted directly into the Ohio River.

Brandon Vatter, Senior Manager of Planning and Design SD1 said,"It's a problem we've created over the last 200 plus years. It'sgoing to take a long time to fix."

We tried to talk to the U.S. EPA about the problem, but weretold they had been ordered by the Department of Justice not tospeak to the media. The DOJ says they will only answer ourquestions if we submitted them in advance. It is WCPO's policy todecline such conditions.

However, both the Metropolitan Sewer District and the SanitationDistrict did talk. They both say the consent decree is needed, butvery expensive.

It looks like $40 million is going into one MSD site on EasternAvenue. At the bottom of a 50-foot shaft, workers are constructinga 102-inch pipeline that runs over a mile to handle excessstormwater.

MSD expects to spend $3.12 billion to meet the consent decree,"but even that will only stop 25 percent of the sewage thatoverflows into the Ohio," said Executive Director Tony Parrott."The question at that point is how much can we do, how much can weafford to do, and how quickly can we do it."

The Sanitation District is building a massive 8-mile tunnel, 12feet in diameter under Boone County to keep up to 14 milliongallons of storm water from flooding into the sewers.

However, just as their Ohio counterparts, "It will eliminateabout 25 percent of our sanitary sewer overflow volume in anaverage year," said Vatter.

Vatter said, "to do all the EPA wants them to do would cost over$3 billion which would result in a sewer bill of about $350 amonth. That's simply unaffordable for the ratepayers of NorthernKentucky."

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