Blueprint Columbus Approved by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Will result in greater benefits at lower cost – and in less time – compared to original “gray” plan
Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s Blueprint Columbus proposal, submitted as an alternative to the city’s 2005 Wet Weather Management Plan to comply with its consent orders and greatly reduce sewer overflows, has been approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) and will be implemented over the next 20 years by the Department of Public Utilities. The official approval letter was received December 1.
“Blueprint Columbus is a huge step forward not only for our city, but for other communities that are working to meet consent order requirements in reducing overflows,” said Mayor Coleman. “This plan is truly cutting edge and will serve as an example as to how green infrastructure and other innovative ideas can work with traditional technologies to create more beneficial solutions.”
The first 10 years of the 2005 wet weather plan saw the investment of over $1 billion toward reducing combined sewer overflows from the city’s older areas, resulting in dramatic improvements. Much of the remaining work – to address sanitary sewer overflows – involved traditional “gray” infrastructure, including large, deep, and expensive tunnels that would only be used a few times each year. Mayor Coleman, Utilities Director Greg Davies, and engineers at the Department of Public Utilities wondered if perhaps there might be a better way, and OEPA granted the city three years to study the idea. The result – Blueprint Columbus – was submitted September 15, and addresses overflows through four pillars: lining residential sewer laterals, a voluntary sump pump program, redirecting roof water runoff away from foundation drains, and installing green infrastructure to treat runoff before it enters storm sewers.
“I commend the city of Columbus not only for its forward thinking in creating a plan that includes green infrastructure and innovative ideas, but also for including a fallback plan that demonstrates the city’s commitment to complying with our legal agreements to reduce sewer overflows,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. “The ideas in Blueprint Columbus can serve as a model for other communities dealing with sewer overflows.”
Support of the study process, including several pilot projects focused on gathering the data necessary to prove Blueprint would work, and eventual approval by Columbus City Council were critical to the development of the plan.
“The City of Columbus continues to be a partner with the State of Ohio to improve local waterways and protect the environment in central Ohio,” said Councilmember Zach Klein, chair of the Public Utilities Committee. “Mayor Coleman and his team have done an outstanding job developing a creative plan that complies with the consent decree but better serves the community.”
Benefits of Blueprint Columbus over the original WWMP include:
• It’s more affordable: not only is Blueprint considerably less expensive than the original “gray” proposal, it can be finished 10 years sooner with the same or even better results.
• It’s greener: while Blueprint and the original plan would both greatly reduce overflows, Blueprint will also provide initial stormwater filtering, resulting in better water quality.
• It’s better for our neighborhoods and economy: the new green infrastructure will create attractive neighborhood amenities as well as new jobs to help maintain those features.
“I appreciate the time invested by Director Butler and everyone at Ohio EPA who examined the Blueprint proposal, carefully weighed its effectiveness against traditional technologies, and asked excellent questions about the plan,” said Utilities Director Greg Davies. “Blueprint Columbus is an excellent example of bringing new innovative thinking to age-old problems, resulting in a win-win-win for our utility, our ratepayers and our community.”
For additional information, please visit http://www.columbus.gov/blueprint/