A New Approach
Is There a Better Way?
City staff overseeing implementation of the Wet Weather Management Plan (WWMP) began asking “Is there a better way? Can we solve the problem of sewer overflows in a way that leaves a visible, long term improvement in our community?” The timing was right because shortly after these questions were posed, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a policy encouraging the solution the City was considering: integrating the work required by the consent decrees and detailed in the WWMP with work required under regulations on our stormwater system.
The EPA strongly encourages the use of green infrastructure to meet the challenges of complying with both stormwater regulations and the elimination of sewer overflows. When the WWMP was written, green infrastructure and the impact it can have on sewer overflows was not well developed. Green infrastructure is an engineered solution that mimics nature and filters pollutants that otherwise would be washed directly into our streams. In recent years, many cities have proposed dealing with sewer overflows with a much greater reliance on green infrastructure instead of traditional gray infrastructure, such as tunnels.
Blueprint Columbus is the new approach that has been developed to eliminate the source of sanitary sewer overflows. This plan includes the use of green infrastructure, which provides significant environmental benefits that will improve water quality compared to the gray infrastructure planned in the WWMP. Other benefits to our community include improving property values and helping to stabilize some of our most challenging neighborhoods. Green infrastructure will require perpetual maintenance, which will in turn lead to permanent jobs.
While there are many benefits, there are also many challenges presented by this approach. Removing the source of water seeping into lateral pipes on private property is much more visible and invasive from the homeowner’s perspective. The City may need to: replace/rehab downspouts and gutters, disturb front and back yards, build in the street right-of-way.