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Regional Sewer District Offers Visitors a Chance to Step Into the Sewer

When we hear about infrastructure, most of us probably think of roads and bridges. But there is plenty of underground infrastructure you can’t see--unless you get a behind the scenes tour, which a small group did Tuesday at Edgewater Beach in Cleveland.

"I wouldn’t suggest touching everything all of the time and rollin’ around in there."

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District led a tour of the nine foot tall combined sewer overflow outfall as part of national infrastructure week. About 20 people, including Michael Goldberg from Cleveland Heights, braved a peek inside Cleveland’s century old sewer system.

“These heavy rains and basement backups. It’s interesting to hear about what they’re trying to do to help prevent that,” Goldberg said.  

When heavy rain floods the system, the pipe sends overflow into Lake Erie. But the sewer district’s Jennifer Elting said that’s not happening much anymore.

“Back in the '70s and '80s, this outfall would discharge a mixture of stormwater and sanitary sewage into the environment 40 to 50 times a year. Today it happens maybe once every couple of years,” Elting said.

Elting said that is progress the sewer district continues to make as part of its 25-year, $3 billion infrastructure improvement plan.

Stacy Goldberg was impressed by what she learned.

“I’m curious about our infrastructure here, I’ve been hearing about it. I know it’s old. Now I’ve already learned, just in the first few minutes, how much work has been done to improve it.”  

 

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Stephanie Hicks Thompson (third from right) is with the Cleveland Foundation. The tour was part of the Foundation's Fred Talks, named in honor of Foundation founder Frederick Harris Goff's legacy of innovative thinking.
SARAH TAYLOR / WKSU
Stephanie Hicks Thompson (third from right) is with the Cleveland Foundation. The tour was part of the Foundation's Fred Talks, named in honor of Foundation founder Frederick Harris Goff's legacy of innovative thinking.