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Nottingham water treatment plant called into question by EPA, operations violations reported

Posted at 6:36 PM, Mar 22, 2018

The process that delivers safe drinking water to tens of thousands of people in Northeast Ohio is being called into question as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sets its sights on one of Cleveland's treatment plants.     

It's a breaking development in News 5's Drowning in Dysfunction series, our investigation into the policies of the Cleveland Division of Water.

Drowning in Dysfunction: Watch our two-year-long investigative special into the Cleveland Water Department here.

We’ve uncovered multiple violations regarding operations at one of the city's four treatment plants. The most recent, at the Nottingham plant, were filed just this week.

A spokesperson from the Ohio EPA told News 5 the issues they discovered there are "significant," but stressed that drinking water is safe.

The facility, on average, processes 65 million gallons of water each day.

"Am I concerned about whether we have safe drinking water? Not right now. No," said Heidi Gorowitz Robertson, a professor of environmental studies at Cleveland State University.

Cleveland Water was called out by the Ohio EPA for a number of issues at Nottingham, from failing to keep up with daily record keeping and system checks, to deficiencies with the sludge tanks there.

"It does undermine our confidence in the system," Gorowitz Robertson said. "Recording and reporting is not hard, and the rules are not new...Problems with their ability to take [a sludge tank] offline to clean it and have others operational at the same time, that is a significant concern."

Gorowitz Robertson said other problems uncovered by the EPA not only erode confidence in the mechanics of the water system, but also those who are in charge of making sure it runs efficiently.

"Leaking roofs that you can't get fixed for 10 months seems like something that the system should be able to plan for."

Cleveland Water issued a statement Thursday afternoon, in part saying, "we take all violations seriously...and will notify the public as required by the Ohio EPA."

"Cleveland Water does have some heavy lifting to rectify them," Gorowitz Robertson said.

The statement went on to say, "we have made improvements in our operating procedures at Nottingham to ensure these violations don't occur in the future."

"They are significant deficiencies that indicates a certain level of alarm on the part of the state agency, and it's a call for action for the Cleveland Water Department," Gorowitz Robertson said.

Now Cleveland Water is rolling out a multi-million dollar plan to address Nottingham's on-going concerns with those sludge tanks.

"When you see repeated violations and failure to report and failure to maintain and repair - that certainly erodes confidence."

Gorowitz Robertson said these violations are the result of a lack of funding and oversight within the department.

On Thursday, Cleveland Water assured customers their health. They say safety and water is their top priority.