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City Doubles Wastewater Cleaning Capacity

Columbus officials were on hand Monday afternoon to see a new addition to the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant on South High Street. The $106 million facility doubles the city's wastewater cleaning capacity.

The new facility is called the Headworks. Sewer lines from all over the city converge at the site south of I-270. By the time sewage arrives it's flowing through pipes that are four and five stories high. Dean Posekany is the plant manager.

"Anything you can imagine going down the sewer ends up here," Posekany says.

Mayor Coleman describes it this way.

"This is also like the Grand Central Station for sewage in Central Ohio," said Coleman. "It all comes through here. And right now it's about 260 million gallons per day."

That's double the amount the facility used to process. Coleman says the new system should do a lot to handle waste water pollution that has plagued the city for years.

"Reducing sewer overflows in heavy rains, reducing basement backups in neighborhoods; and it makes our waterways cleaner and our neighborhoods healthier as a result of this major investment in our community," Coleman says.

"This $106 million investment is just the tip of the iceberg. The city plans ultimately to spend $2.5 billion dollars to carry out its wet weather management plan as mandated by environmental regulators. Much of the cost will be reflected in rates payers' water/sewer bills. The city council has already approved a 2008 increase of about $90 annually for Columbus residents and about $100 annually for customers in surrounding communities who use Columbus's water and sewer. City Council president Mike Mentel says he cannot rule out future increases, but he says, it's not a hollow investment.

"We're going to be able to allow more growth in the city of Columbus compared to our sister cities in the state," Mentel says. "So the return on the investment if you want to put it that way is going to benefit our citizens it's going to benefit our children and those who stay here and in the future."

Mentel says studies predict between 300,000 and 500,000 people will move to central Ohio in the next 30 years. Both he and Mayor Coleman say continued upgrades will help accommodate the influx of new residents.