Some members of the Ohio EPA believe that the city of Lakewood isn’t doing enough to comply with the Clean Water Act, stemming from the city’s excessive storm-water runoff.
Not so fast, say city officials.
“We’ve done a substantial amount of work,” said Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers.
State officials visited the city last Thursday to go over some of the city’s work to fix the issue.
“It (was) a big meeting because the Ohio EPA has several members who feel we haven’t done enough,” he said. “It’s an act of ignorance on their part.”
Lakewood has already spent “tens of millions of dollars” on upgrading the sewers since 1987, he said. That work includes separating sewers lines and studying and improving the process, Summers added.
In addition, the city is eyeing a plan that would separate the sewer and sanitary lines on Edgewater Drive.
Officials from the Ohio EPA couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Summers has said that the issue stems from “having a 100-year system, with no capacity to make a $100-million investment.”
City officials concede that for the past 100 years in Lakewood, “the solution to pollution was dissolution.”
That’s no longer an option.
“We’ve been trying to gain ground since Lakewood was built,” said Summers.
With Lakewood reporting in 2010 that 91.4 million gallons of storm/sewer water were dumped into Lake Erie, the EPA is forcing the city to make some changes.
Those fixes to the city’s infrastructure could be expensive — as much as $500 million. The city is working on an agreement with the US EPA to address the problem.
Joe Beno, the city’s director of public works, said he was optimistic about last week’s meeting.
“We told them everything that we could,” he said. “Do they think it’s as important as we do? I don’t know.”
City officials will continue to work with state officials to examine some solutions.
Here are a few of them:
- One option is to tear up all the streets in the city and install a completely new system. But with a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars, city officials have said that is out of the question: “I would hope that the EPA wouldn’t bankrupt a city just to do that,” Beno said recently.
- Some communities take 20-foot interceptor tunnels that allow for a slower release of water that prevents large dumps of storm-water into the lake.
- City officials are considering offering incentives to homeowners who disconnect their gutters.
- Rain barrels are an option, but they can fill up fast. For a two-hour storm, that might not be sufficient.
- The city is requiring new developers to build retention swales under new parking lots. Some places — such as the new McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Garfield Middle School — already have them.