Springfield hopes to save money on $250M plan to stop sewer overflows

As a $23 million sewer project continues in Springfield, local and state environmental leaders are reviewing the city’s plan to determine what else must be done to eliminate overflows of raw sewage into area waterways.

The city has already spent nearly $80 million on the federally mandated Combined Sewer Overflow project, designed to cut down on overflows from combined storm sewers during heavy rains. The city could spend up to a total of $250 million over the next 25 years to comply with the Clean Water Act.

Springfield’s long-term control plan will be reviewed this year with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which might be a way to make changes and save money.

“You can’t even comprehend the numbers,” Springfield Service Director Chris Moore said at last week’s City Commission retreat.

Part of that plan includes the Erie Interceptor Express Sewer last year. It’s currently under construction and was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but has been delayed several times due to design issues. It’s not likely to be completed until August of 2018.

A sewer currently runs from the area of Ohio 41 and Bechtle Avenue and ties into a larger sewer, which officials say could overflow during a large storm and allow untreated sewage to enter nearby waterways. The Erie Interceptor Express sewer will attach to that sanitary sewer located nearby and send the sewage directly to the Springfield Wastewater Treatment Plant at 925 Dayton Ave.

City commissioners agreed Tuesday night to add about $200,000 to the project, which was needed to clear unexpected rock found during the construction process, City Engineer Leo Shanayda said. The upgrades to the sewer system are being paid for through increases to sewer and stormwater rates.

Some roadways will be affected during construction, Shanayda said, including Hometown Street and areas near the wastewater plant, but lanes will remain open for through traffic.

The city’s first long-term plan was submitted in 2004 and after years of negotiating, it had an addendum adopted in 2014. Larger projects are being examined this year as part of a review with the Ohio EPA.

“We’ll take a step back, brag about our successes and look to the future to see what conditions have changed,” Moore said.

As part of its plan, the city must allow no more than four overflows per year. It’s currently allowing 50 to 70 annually, Moore said.

“There’s some work to do, obviously,” he said.

The review will allow the city and state to take a fresh look at what can be done to comply with regulations, especially without completing larger projects, such as a sewage overflow storage tunnel that could more than $200 million.

“We’re looking to see if that fits into the big picture,” Moore said.

The city also constructed a $52 million high-rate clarifier that catches and treats overflows during storms at the wastewater plant, which opened in 2015. The plant now has the capacity to treat up to 140 million gallons of sewage per day. The project is believed to be the most expensive single item ever approved by city commissioners.

Some of the technology used as part of the high-rate treatment clarifier project wasn’t available at the time of the first plan, Moore said. New technology being created now could help the city save money down the road, he said. The city hopes to have flexibility in its plan as conditions change locally and nationally, Moore said.

“The technology we used in 2013 wasn’t being used in 2004,” Moore said. “It didn’t exist in the early 2000s.”

The city will also negotiate a new permit in July for its wastewater treatment plant, which includes a formalized review of many of the sewer projects it must complete to comply with federal regulations. The permit regulates how the city operates its plant, Moore said.

“As bad as this stuff is, doing nothing is not an option,” Moore said.

In 2015, a more than $1.3 million bridge was constructed on Snyder Street across Buck Creek into Snyder Park to allow construction vehicles to enter and exit the former golf course area where a part of the Erie Express sewer will be built. It’s been a great addition to the park, Moore said.

“(The sewer overflow project) is the biggest public works project this community will ever see,” Moore said. “We have to embrace the positives that come with it.”

Heavy construction vehicles required for the sewer project couldn’t use the former green bridge — which is now for pedestrians only — in Snyder Park near Bechtle Avenue.

In order to get the Erie Express sewer aligned properly, an existing sewer built in 1932 will need to be replaced. The old sewer is located near the wooded area just north of the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Dayton Avenue.

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