Going Green - A Storm Water Alternative For the EPA
In 2009 City Council passed a resolution that read in part, "…it is the goal of the City of Euclid to support and encourage sustainability in the daily operations and provision of municipal services in order to reduce overall energy consumption, use resources responsibly, be good stewards of the environment, and to save costs."
The resolution applied to alternative energy. It’s well beyond time to apply it to our Storm Water Management System.
The Federal EPA is requiring Euclid to improve our system. In April, Council increased user fees that will raise about $70 million to pay in part for improved sewer lines, new holding tanks and improved storm water treatment. This approach is referred to as "Grey Infrastructure." It addresses capacity and treatment issues. Grey improvements are necessary, but incorporating a “Green Infrastructure Strategy” (GIS) to Euclid's storm water problem reduces the AMOUNT of storm water that enters the system.
GIS keeps water out of the system by intercepting storm water, infiltrating a portion of it into the ground, evaporating a portion of it into the air, and in some cases releasing a portion of it slowly back into the sewer system.
A successful GIS reduces the storm water load, reduces the need for increased capacity, reduces the severity of cost increases and improves the ecosystem. Tools to intercept storm water run off include rain barrels, tree plantings, pervious pavement, rain gardens, tree trenches, green streets and green roofs.
A Tale of Two Cities: To comply with Federal EPA regulations, the City of Philadelphia faced a $9 billion dollar tab to construct giant tunnels to hold storm water. Instead, the City embarked on a program called Greenworks Philadelphia, a comprehensive green program that created new storm water management fees, along with incentives to disconnect downspouts, install roof and rain gardens, rain barrels, etc. Mayor Nutter believes that green infrastructure will cost Philadelphia about $2billion to comply with the Federal EPA. That’s a savings of $7 billion over the proposed cost of the tunnels.
Lancasteris is a city in some ways similar to Euclid: Older, smaller lots, a little bit larger than Euclid. It is located in the Delaware River watershed, and like Euclid is under EPA mandate to improve its waste water treatment system. Under a traditional Grey approach of new tanks, pipes and other plant improvements, the price tag was estimated at $300 million dollars. Lancaster instead adopted a green infrastructure approach that will cost less than half of that, about $141 million. What is most promising is that by adopting this green approach, Lancasterhas won numerous grants to implement its plan.
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District: If we look in our own back yard, we would find that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is adopting many of the strategies found in Philadelphia, Lancaster, Chicago and other places. It is integrating green infrastructure into its sewer system improvements. NEORSD was just given permission by the courts to implement a storm water management fee ALONG WITH INCENTIVES to help keep water out of its system.
And what of Euclid? The Administration admitted it will need to come back for additional increases, perhaps as early as November. Before it does, the City of Euclid owes it to rate payers to educate, demonstrate and evaluate alternatives.
The City must educate users by offering a page on its web site dedicated to water diversion. There, interested persons can learn about disconnecting downspouts, rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable drives, green roofs and native plantings. Such pages are common on city web sites and encourage people to incorporate a GIS into their landscaping.
The City must demonstrate its willingness to go green by taking the lead in disconnecting downspouts, installing pervious pavement, planting rain gardens, designing green streets and installing green roofs on City property.
When Council approved the rate increases, it also passed a resolution urging the Administration to seek out an engineering firm with green infrastructure experience to evaluate the current Long Term Control plan, and offer green alternatives. This firm should also evaluate how the system is managed, the proposed fee increases, and, potential alternative fee structures. The Administration must honor that resolution.
Will the Courts and the Federal EPA allow Euclid to revamp our storm water control plan? According to the online magazine "Waterworld": "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continue to promote the use of green infrastructure and work to develop an integrated planning process to help local governments manage wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff more efficiently and cost effectively. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe said, "An integrated approach allows communities to prioritize their investments to address the most serious water issues first and provides flexibility to use innovative, cost-effective storm- and wastewater-management solutions -– including green infrastructure."
A practical combination of Grey/Green Infrastructure to address Euclid's storm water problem is better for the ecosystem, less expensive and in compliance with EPA desired results. The technology and evidence that it works is there.
Daryl Langman is Ward 7 Councilman for the City of Euclid and chairs Euclid’s Sustainability Committee.
Councilman Daryl Langman