Clean Water Lakewood | The City of Lakewood, Ohio

Clean Water Lakewood

Working together to reduce overflows into Lake Erie.


Clean Water Challenges and Goals

When our City’s sewers were built in the early 1900s, investments were made using state of the art approaches to address the flooding and public health requirements for the City. This system includes in many locations a single pipe that carries combined wastewater and stormwater, often intermingled with other two-pipe systems for sanitary and storm water. These pipes were later connected together through interceptors and eventually connected to a wastewater treatment plant.

Under dry conditions, all of the wastewater is treated by Lakewood’s Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) and then it is discharged into Lake Erie. When it rains, when snow melts, and when water is flowing off of impermeable surfaces such as roofs, foundation drains, and streets, excess flow of combined stormwater and wastewater discharge into Lake Erie or Rocky River.

Combined sewer systems are found throughout many older communities across the States. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, such overflows and other discharges must be controlled or eliminated in order to make water fishable and swimmable, among other uses.

To resolve this waste overflow problem, US EPA and Ohio EPA have mandated that Lakewood capture, treat or remove the millions of gallons of overflow that happens every year. As with the original investments in the City, Lakewood must invest in infrastructure so that it meets the demands of Lakewood’s second century, under the law and for the benefit of human and environmental health.

What are Combined Sewers?

Combined sewer systems are sewers that are designed to collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe.  Most of the time, combined sewer systems transport all of their wastewater to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated and then discharged to a water body.  During periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt, however, the wastewater volume in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant. For this reason, combined sewer systems are designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater directly to nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies.

These overflows, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs), contain not only stormwater but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris.  They are a significant water pollution concern for the approximately 772 cities in the U.S. that have combined sewer systems (EPA, 2014).

Integrated Wet Weather Improvement Plan