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South Fairmount's Lick Run Greenway Designed To Help MSD Reduce Sewage Overflows

Lick Run
Becca Costello
The Lick Run stream now flows above-ground in a bed made of stone from houses in the community and the original stream.

A stream buried for more than a century now flows openly through a new South Fairmount park. City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials celebrated the completion of the Lick Run Greenway Tuesday.

The $103 million urban waterway is designed to reduce combined sewage overflows into Mill Creek, as part of a federal consent decree to bring the Metropolitan Sewer District into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

"Before this project, there was not one drop of rain that would fall on the Lick Run watershed and make its way to the Mill Creek without first going through our combined sewer and mixing with sewage," said MSD Deputy Director MaryLynn Lodor. "That doesn't happen now."

Lick Run was buried about a hundred years ago and put into a 19.5-foot-diameter pipe to flow directly into the Mill Creek. Now, the stream flows openly again in a bed of rock from homes in the neighborhood and the original stream.

Lick Run
Credit Becca Costello / WVXU
The stream runs for about a mile between Queen City and Westwood avenues.

A new storm sewer underneath helps control surface flooding, while the existing Lick Run combined sewer carries sewage to the Mill Creek plant. Officials estimate the new system will divert about a billion gallons of sewage from the creek each year, and save ratepayers $200 million compared to building a traditional tunnel.

Implementation of the federal consent decree has been a slow and contentious process. The Lick Run Greenway project took about three years of active construction and 12 years of collaboration between MSD and city, county and community officials.

Bonnie Buthker, district chief of the Ohio EPA Southwest Office, says there's still a lot of work to do.

"U.S. EPA's environmental justice program continues to work with the Mill Creek neighborhoods that are experiencing localized flooding and basement backups to try to improve those situations and address their concerns," Buthker said. "And Ohio EPA, U.S. EPA, and the county and city, continue to work on additional clean water projects in the Cincinnati region under the consent decree."

The project includes a two-acre pond, new basketball court, playground, and walking path.

Daniel Betts, director of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, says the city is partnering with young people from CRC's Youth to Work program and the Parks Department to work as ambassadors for the site.

"Our goal is to keep this clean, safe and inviting to the community," Betts said.

South Fairmount Community Council President Jim Casey says they're planning a Lick Run 5k later this year, making use of the path that is almost exactly 3.1 miles long.

lick run greenway map
Credit Courtesy / City of Cincinnati
City of Cincinnati

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.