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142,600 gallons of sewage and stormwater discharged into Lake Erie after Tuesday night's severe weather

Posted at 11:13 AM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 20:10:37-04

CLEVELAND — The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District issued an advisory at Edgewater Beach after a combination of raw sewage and stormwater flowed into Lake Erie Tuesday night at about 8 p.m. after severe weather brought torrential rain to the area.

“Our region has experienced many strong storms in recent years, an ongoing trend that we will see more of in the future,” said Director of Watershed Programs Frank Greenland in a news release. “CSOs, along with flooding and streambank erosion, all impact water quality throughout our region. Fortunately, the Sewer District is developing a regional solution to manage these sizeable issues and protect our region’s greatest natural resource: Lake Erie.”

There were 142,600 gallons discharged into the lake for about 15 minutes. The district’s water quality team is advising beachgoers to avoid contact with the water, as water quality is rated as “poor” Wednesday.

Edgewater Beach has been a Cleveland hot spot for years for folks to walk in the sand, take their dogs out to play and enjoy live music. Some said the smell is another thing.

"When you get closer to the water, it smells terrible. Honestly. Even driving on the freeway, if I have a window down, you can kind of get a whiff of it just going by," said Jarem Pickens, walking his dog.

The discharge of sewer into Edgewater Beach has been happening since the mid-1970s when combined sewer outfall discharged into Lake Erie approximately 40 to 50 times per year.

The last Edgewater discharge (during recreation season) was Aug. 6, 2018, according to the district.

However, the district says it has made improvement to the aging infrastructure, which have decreased overflow discharge significantly.

The sewer district's 25-year, $3 billion improvement plan called "Project Clean" will aim to reduce sewage entering Lake Erie and other area waterways.

According to the NORSD, the project will include the construction of large storage tunnels designed to capture combined sewage and convey it to a treatment plant for full treatment.

The massive project will be completed by 2036.

In the meantime, if you have any concerns, Smith said parents should always be cautious when taking their kids to the beach, especially after a storm.

"If it’s raining, you just want to be cognizant that it could elevate bacteria levels. Just watch, and not allow your children in the water if the signage indicates that water quality is poor here that given day," Smith said.

According to a spokesperson from Cleveland Metroparks, Edgewater Live will not be impacted by the overflow.