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Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District turning former eyesore into community asset

Posted at 11:32 AM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 18:08:54-04

One of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s most unique projects will turn one of the most unlikely places into the latest examples of green infrastructure. After crews spent months removing thousands of pounds of junked cars, trash and discarded car tires, substantial progress has been made in the ultimate reclamation of a decades-old illegal dumping site.

For close to a century, a large swath of property near East 64th and Kinsman Avenue was used as a makeshift landfill and dumpsite. The property’s use as a makeshift landfill pre-dated many of the regulations that tightly controlled such operations. After the property was the subject of a lengthy investigation by the Environmental Crimes Task Force, the NEORSD secured $400,000 in grants from the EPA in 2015. The grant money went toward the clean-up and remediation of the contaminated property.

“Since the early 1900s, this has been historically a dumping site. It has collected a lot of debris and scrap over the years. Part of what we are doing for that project is cleaning it up,” said Rachel Webb, the senior watershed team leader for NEORSD.

Crews removed an estimated 5000 tons of solid waste, enough to fill an estimated 350 semi-tractor trailers. As many as 6000 junked car tires were also removed, officials said.

“It is a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of clean up. You know this is something that happens in Urban areas. We call them Brownfields,” Webb said. “Just over the time of development this happens in these areas and they need to be cleaned up so they can be used for other uses.”

By the fall of 2019, the property will be turned into a park-like green space area, featuring a large stormwater retention basin. The basin, when complete, will collect storm-water runoff during rain events. From there, the storm-water will be treated by plants and grasses, which essentially act like a natural water filter.

The water will then end up back in Lake Erie.

“The goal behind this is to capture stormwater runoff from the streets before it gets into the combined sewer system,” Webb said.

Before a massive overhaul of the local sewer system, during heavy rain events, stormwater runoff would combine with untreated wastewater, eventually ending up in Lake Erie. Stormwater retention basins will help eliminate those overflow events, Webb said.

“We’re circumventing that combined system so we can treat that stormwater naturally,” Webb said.

While the new project on the former dump site serves a particular purpose, Webb said the project will also serve as a community asset by providing the neighborhood with open greenspace in a park-like setting.

“You also have walking paths running through here. We wanted to make it accessible for the neighborhood because we are talking about a six-acre site. This is a substantial piece of the neighborhood that we wanted everybody to have access to,” Webb said. “We have a bunch of other brick that we found on the site. We have large sandstone that we’re going to place around the site as benches. We’re trying to recycle as much as we can from the site that we felt like we could use in the project.”

Planting will begin in the spring and the project is expected to be complete by Fall 2019.