Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alliance for the Great Lakes, CSOs and Green Infrastructure

The Alliance for the Great Lakes has been monitoring the effectiveness of wastewater treatment in southeast Michigan for a number of years.  It published a report last year describing efforts by regulators to reduce pollution in the Detroit River and Lake Erie.  Following are some excerpts from the report.  http://greatlakes.org/DetroitCSOs

“The Detroit sewage plant releases billions of gallons of combined untreated sewage and runoff into the Great Lakes each year during periods of heavy rain.”

“In 2009 the Detroit plant reported such overflows sent 32 billion gallons of combined untreated and partially treated sewage with storm runoff into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers and beyond to the Great Lakes -- making the plant Michigan’s largest source of combined sewer overflows [CSOs].”

“Due to its poor financial condition, in 2009 Detroit halted work on a large storage tunnel intended to address these overflows.”

[A renewed National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required a less expensive means of attempting to control CSOs.  The plan now being implemented will increase the number of retention/treatment basins in DWSD’s system.]

“In 2011, Michigan [DEQ] modified the plant's discharge permit to include green infrastructure provisions to reduce overflows and a revised plan for construction.”

[Green infrastructure as presently construed is expected to reduce CSOs by 10 to 15%.]

“Unfortunately, the final permit issued by Michigan failed to include specific milestones or a timetable for completion of the green infrastructure program…”

“In March 2013, Michigan regulators re-issued the discharge permit with several updates to protect local rivers and Lake Erie from untreated sewage overflows. Now that the permit is final, the Alliance will monitor DWSD’s progress in improving its operations, and participate in community efforts to control phosphorus discharges and develop a ‘green infrastructure’ plan to reduce stormwater entering the combined sewer system.”

[I don’t know how much confidence the Alliance has in retention/treatment basins to control CSOs, but I’m thinking that a lot more emphasis should be put on developing green infrastructure.  For example, let’s stop fiddling around with tree planting at the rate of 3000 or 4000 per year on the “neighborhood beautification” model and start planting on an industrial scale, say 100,000 each year, as they do in Philadelphia and New York.  Maybe John Hantz can help with that.]



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