Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Episode 2: "I Now Pronounce You MSD"

Now that we know why raw sewage sometimes backs up into basements and overflows in public waterways, why hasn’t it been fixed yet?

Backed Up examines the first possible villain in this mystery: a political tug of war between city and county officials that began more than 50 years ago.

Check out the Backed Up digital exhibit through the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library to explore the history of the Cincinnati sewer system. Visit www.chpl.org/backed-up

Acronyms in this episode:

  • WWIP = Wet Weather Improvement Plan
  • MSD/MSDGC = Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati
  • SBU = Sewer Backup
  • CSO = Combined Sewer Overflow
  • EPA = Environmental Protection Agency

Other information and resources in this episode:

See more photos and videos at wvxu.org/backedup

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Backed Up is transcribed using a combination of AI speech recognition and human editors. It may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Diana Christy: It worked really well for a long time.

Jack Rennekamp: So it wasn't that we were at battle with one another.

Denise Driehaus: Oh, there was so much angst between the city and the county.

Jack Rennekamp: What was problematic was issues that were created politically.

Denise Driehaus: Again, it's this, this dysfunction is not only internal, it's external.

Becca Costello: If my friend described her relationship to me like this, I'd tell her to get the hell out of there.

Ella Rowen: Yeah, the red flags are flagging.

Becca Costello: But hey, the relationship is complicated between the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Ella Rowen: They remind me of a dysfunctional family

Becca Costello: The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, or MSD, is often stuck in the middle of their political tug of war.

Ella Rowen: Wait, oh my god, so MSD is kind of like the kid in a custody battle.

Becca Costello: Yeah, kinda. But worse than that, all of us are stuck in the middle, too, because all of the time and money spent fighting over who gets to be in charge is time not spent on the bigger problem: heavy rain that sends raw sewage into basements and local public waters. This is Backed Up a podcast from Cincinnati Public Radio. I'm Becca Costello.

Ella Rowen: And I'm Ella Rowen, and today we are spilling the tea ...the sewage tea?

Becca Costello: Let's head to our trusty bulletin board. We're keeping track of all the clues and evidence that will help us solve the mystery of MSD and why raw sewage is still getting dumped into waterways and getting backed up into homes.

Ella Rowen: I feel like there's a joke here somewhere about encyclopedia BROWN?

Becca Costello: Or maybe Nancy...Poo?

[Archival Audio]: If you help out now, the case will move a lot quicker. I wish I could Nancy, I can't take that kind of risk right now.

Ella Rowen: All right, I am putting up a picture of city hall and a picture of the county commissioner's office, and I'm tacking them to the board.

Becca Costello: And I am drawing a picture of them holding hands over a toilet bowl.

Ella Rowen: These days, Cincinnati and Hamilton County are not hashtag relationship goals. So how did these two lovebirds get together, anyway?

Becca Costello: Remember that in the early days of Cincinnati, engineers built a combined sewer system on purpose because it seemed like a good idea at the time. A quick refresh for you: in this kind of sewer system, poop and pee go down the same pipe as stormwater.

Ella Rowen: By the time Cincinnati's suburbs were big enough to add their own sewer systems, they knew to build them separately. Stormwater goes in one pipe, and our poop goes in a different pipe.

Becca Costello: As God intended.

Ella Rowen: Amen.

Becca Costello: Even though these suburbs were building their own sewer pipes, it was too expensive to build their own treatment plants. But they're like, hey, Cincinnati already has treatment plants. Can't we just send our poop to them?

Ella Rowen: Sharing is caring, after all.

Becca Costello: So for a couple of decades, Hamilton County is split. There's the Cincinnati sewer system, which has been connected to some of the suburban communities.

Ella Rowen: And then there's a completely different system to handle sewage in all the other Hamilton County suburbs.

Becca Costello: But none of these sewer systems were doing a stellar job. In the 1960s the Ohio government got serious about water pollution like sewer overflows, and threatened cities and counties with an ultimatum: get your act together, or we'll stop approving building permits.

Ella Rowen: These building freezes meant no new housing or restaurants or stores or anything else these communities wanted.

Jack Rennekamp: So that became a precursor to MSD and the county and the city saying, collaboratively, we need to solve these issues.

Becca Costello: Our favorite sewer slash history nerd Jack Rennekamp is back to help tell this epic love story.

Jack Rennekamp: The city and the county had undertaken a number of studies, but came together and said a collaborative arrangement whereby the city, as the technical and brains trust, so to speak, would exist alongside a county funding apparatus and a political authority that rested with the county.

Becca Costello: Think of it like a wedding. The city and the county get married, and their vows are the 1968 agreement.

Ella Rowen: Do you Hamilton County, agree to appoint the city as the sole and complete management agent for the county sewer system?

Becca Costello: I do

Ella Rowen: And do you, City of Cincinnati, agree to accept and undertake to perform your duties and responsibilities and functions as such agent, all in accordance with the terms, conditions and provisions relating thereto as defined and prescribed herein?

Becca Costello: I do.

Ella Rowen: I now pronounce you the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati. We end up with a whole new entity, the birth of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati.

Becca Costello: Not to rain on the parade too much, but this isn't necessarily a love match. It's more of a marriage of convenience, and it's a pretty complicated agreement.

Ella Rowen: The county owns MSD. The Board of County Commissioners sets the budget and the rates. And the city operates MSD, so all the employees work for the city of Cincinnati.

Becca Costello: Even this basic description, though, doesn't have consensus.

[City Attorney]: From the city's perspective, of course, we would still own all of the assets within the city that the city brought to the MSD in 1968

Becca Costello: That's a city attorney speaking to city council back in 2015 the city and the county were facing one of the biggest challenges yet: what to do when the 1968 agreement expired in a couple of years.

Ella Rowen: Most marriages don't have an expiration date from the beginning, but this one did. The agreement that created MSD was for 50 years, and there was no plan for what would happen at the end in 2018

[City Attorney]: I don't really know what is going to happen, but certainly, if there is not a resolution, there is always the potential for some future court proceeding.

Becca Costello: Officials at the time seemed optimistic, at least at first. Here's then council member, Christopher Smitherman.

Christopher Smitherman: We are not, I am not, and I would say that my colleagues are not interested in a divorce. We're interested in a continued marriage with our county partners around MSD.

Becca Costello: The city and the county operated pretty peacefully together for a while. So why didn't the honeymoon phase last?

Ella Rowen: One reason is the consent decree, which sounds like a royal proclamation you'd hear at the Renaissance Fair.

Becca Costello: Hear ye, hear ye. Thy waters are polluted with foul fluids, violating the kingdom's laws.

Ella Rowen: Yeah, not that exciting. The MSD consent decree came after a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and the Ohio EPA.

Diana Christy: It's odd that we use the term consent decree as if everyone understands what that is.

Ella Rowen: Meet Diana Christie, Director of MSD.

Diana Christy: So a consent decree is something that is used typically in the regulatory environment, it means that we have agreed upon solutions to achieve compliance with something that otherwise federal and state EPAs could take action against us for non compliance.

Becca Costello: In other words, a consent decree is like a contract. MSD is essentially breaking federal law by dumping raw sewage into local creeks and rivers, and MSD has been breaking that law ever since President Nixon signed the Clean Water Act in 1972

Ella Rowen: But the EPA says, Hey, we get it -- all these old cities were built this way, and it isn't your fault. Our standards have gotten higher. So we'll let it slide as long as MSD follows a plan to eventually stop violating the law. That agreement is the consent decree finalized around 2004.

Becca Costello: Then MSD comes up with a plan for HOW to stop breaking the law. That's something called the WWIP. I'm so sorry to inform you this is yet another acronym: WWIP, the wet weather improvement plan.

Ella Rowen: The Wet Weather Improvement Plan was finalized in 2009. It's basically a list of projects that will reduce how much untreated sewage is released into waterways. Think like bigger pipes and treatment plants.

Becca Costello: But there are lots of different ways to fix this problem and deciding which projects to spend 10s of millions of dollars on is not at all easy.

Ella Rowen: And don't forget, this marriage had a 50-year shelf life from the very beginning, and there was no plan for what would happen after that 2018 expiration date. Would they renew their vows?

Christopher Smitherman: We're interested in a continued marriage with our county partners around MSD.

Ella Rowen: By 2017, officials in both Cincinnati and Hamilton County were ready to call it quits on the relationship.

Becca Costello: That optimism ended just a couple years later. By 2017 officials in both Cincinnati and Hamilton County were ready to call it quits on the toxic relationship. City Council and Hamilton County Commission held several joint meetings in 2017 to find a way to separate amicably. Here's then Mayor John Cranley and then council member Kevin Flynn.

John Cranley: If we do nothing and continue to litigate or don't come to a resolution, the closer we get to April 30, the more you've already spent on litigation, you might as well let the judge make the final call.

Kevin Flynn: We need to be able to put the past behind us so that we can move forward.

Becca Costello: Like any divorce, it was complicated by shared assets and kids.

Ella Rowen: Not actual children, thankfully, but close to 700 people work at MSD, all of them getting their paychecks from the city, so it was like the final boss of custody battles.

Becca Costello: Then County Commissioner Todd portune was one of the most vocal officials on this issue for a long time, and he didn't sugarcoat how tough it was.

Todd Portune: Resolving the conflict was no easy deal. Both sides, I guess, may have wanted it to operate different, but that is the hallmark of a good compromise, and one forged with the sweat and the blood and the tears that this one was forged out of, is probably a very good deal that will stand the test of time.

Becca Costello: Long story short, the city and county finally came to an agreement to go their separate ways.

Denise Driehaus: It was huge.

Becca Costello: That's Denise Driehaus, one of three Hamilton County Commissioners. This particular fight was happening when she first took office, and she's still on the Board of Commissioners now.

Denise Driehaus: It was huge. When I entered the scene right in 2017 Oh, there was so much angst between the city and the county, and there was just a lot of tension in the room, a lot of disagreement in the room. So for us to come together on something that solved for the city and the county's top priorities was really significant.

Ella Rowen: And like, what a relief. Have you ever seen a couple that really didn't belong together get a divorce and think good for them?

Denise Driehaus: So you can imagine the disappointment when we didn't get that done.

Ella Rowen: Wait, what?

Becca Costello: Yep, the divorce didn't go through. Ohio State government officials had to sign off on it, and they said no.

[Newscast Audio]: A year after Hamilton County and Cincinnati leaders thought they'd settled the future of the Metropolitan Sewer District, the deal isn't done, and it may need to be reopened.

Ella Rowen: They took their sweet time making that decision, and the expiration date came and went. A federal judge overseeing the consent decree decided the 1968 agreement should just continue indefinitely until there's a new agreement. Spoiler alert, there still isn't a new agreement.

Becca Costello: While all of that was going on in the courts, another big fight was happening at the same time, the next phase of the wet weather improvement plan had to be submitted to EPA regulators in summer 2018

Ella Rowen: And this is where things get really wild.

Denise Driehaus: Well, this gets to the point of the fact that there's disagreement between the city and the county on what the plan should be.

Becca Costello: The city of Cincinnati, along with MSD, sent federal regulators a 10 year plan.

Ella Rowen: But the county sent a totally different plan for five years

Denise Driehaus: The city, city's plan did not resemble the county's plan. Some of it was the same and some of it wasn't. And so there's a disagreement. The county - you know, we own a utility, and so it is our obligation to provide that plan to the regulators. The city, unbeknownst to us, provided their own plan. That was problematic, not only by way of the regulators having two plans from the same place, but also by way of the relationship. So that wasn't helpful.

Becca Costello: Hamilton county commissioners were furious. They fired criticism at MSD Director Diana Christie at a public meeting in early 2020. Here's Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas,

Stephanie Summerow Dumas: Why? Why did you think you had the authority to do that? I'm just going to be straight. Why did you think you were able to do that?

Ella Rowen: MSD Director Diana Christy fired right back.

Diana Christy: Because the city is a co defendant to the consent decree and had just as much responsibility. To submit a plan as the county.

Stephanie Summerow Dumas: So when you say we, we, we does that include us? When you say we can't do this, we have to do. Who's we to you do? Are we included?

Diana Christy: I'm not sure what context I said.

Stephanie Summerow Dumas: I don't know either. That's why I'm asking you.

Becca Costello: Commissioner Victoria Parks wasn't satisfied.

Victoria Parks: This is offensive. And the way I feel right now, I have a suggestion. I think that you ought to call the judge and just tell him that you have no intention of operating and dealing with us in good faith, so that we can stop wasting our time, his time, in our citizens money. This is upsetting.

Ella Rowen: And all this time, while the city and county are bickering and filing court motions and s**t talking to the public and to reporters, it's still raining in Cincinnati.

Sue Bilz: You want to talk first, or go down and see?

Becca Costello: I think we'll do a little tour first. Okay?

Sue Bilz: My name is Susan bills. I've been a proud West Price Hill, Covedale resident since 1966. I probably moved three times and moved six blocks total, and I returned to my childhood home, which I love very much. We are very involved with community. I'm involved with West price Hill Community Council and the Price Hill Safety Community Action Team. We like to keep things safe and clean in our neighborhoods.

Becca Costello: Multiple generations of Sue's family stayed right here in West Price Hill, in this house despite a certain problem that has come up again and again. Or should I say, backed up again and again?

Sue Bilz: So I'm going to to take a lot a little tour here, just be careful. Forgive my daughter's moving back home messes, but this is the reason I have to put stuff up, because this is where the main drain issues have occurred.

Ella Rowen: Drain issue is another way of describing what happened to Florence Miller in episode one, a sewer backup or SBU.

Sue Bilz: So the house was built in roughly 1934. Now we redid this area. There used to be a drain over here where we filled it in, that was also an area of backup. If you come over here, you'll even see some areas where it even reached, what, three, at least three feet?

Becca Costello: That's my shoulder!

Sue Bilz: Yeah. So that did not happen often, but it did happen.

Becca Costello: Sue pointed to that water line and said, at least three feet, but it was absolutely up to my shoulder, which would be well over four feet. That's how high the mix of storm water and raw sewage would get in Sue's basement when she was a kid in the 70s.

Sue Bilz: So obviously, if you're planning on people coming over, and then you have to deal with all the smell and disinfecting and, yeah, that that puts a little damper on things, to say the least. But it was frustrating because they'd spent a decent amount of money trying to fix the problem too, and it wasn't that they weren't willing to try, they did.

Ella Rowen: These sewer backups were a lot more common then. This was around the time of the Clean Water Act in 1972 but way before MSD's consent decree. Most people had no idea what a sewer backup even was.

Sue Bilz: We just knew water was coming up. I didn't even think about it being a combined sewer backup. We just knew water was coming in and we had to deal with it.

Becca Costello: When Sue's parents passed away in 2011 she moved back into her childhood home with her husband and kids, and in 2017 one of those major storm events hit the west side.

Sue Bilz: They were very heavy rains. I think they would probably refer back to them as you know, if not 100 year floods, they were very, very serious floods. There was one the 16th, and we had one the 29th and the 30th, and then one in July, July 21 so there were four different documented and reported where they actually reported to the house and came out and tried to decide if it was an actual sewer backup or not.

Becca Costello: This is actually a good time to talk about the different kinds of sewer backups. It's a little bit of a side note. Let's put this on the bulletin board. Not all sewer backups are caused by too much stormwater in a combined sewer system.

Ella Rowen: Actually most sewer backups are not caused by a combined sewer system. It's more common that a clog causes household sewage to back up in a private pipe and overflows the toilets and drains in a basement.

Becca Costello: Clogs or blockages could be a tree root, a buildup of things like hair, food dumped down the sink and those so called flushable wipes.

Ella Rowen: Oh… clears throat [music stops abruptly]...hold on. Can we talk about something real quick? Those flushable wipes are a LIE. No matter what the label tries to tell you, there's no such thing as flushable wipes!

Becca Costello: Seriously, all flushable wipes are terrible for the sewer system! If you don't believe me, Google fatberg.

[Newscast Audio]: We've got a monster of a fatberg under the seafront here in Sidmouth.

Ella Rowen: Flushable wipes should be rebranded as do not flush, but instead, responsibly dispose of me in the nearest trashcan. Wipes. Anyway, the point is, most sewer backups are caused by problems with the private side of the sewer system.

Becca Costello: Not to victim blame or anything, that's just the way it is. And MSD will only pay for damages and cleaning if a sewer backup is caused by capacity issues in the combined sewer system.

Ella Rowen: Which makes sense, right? You wouldn't want your sewer rates to pay for some random person's sewer backup if it was caused by pouring too much bacon grease down the drain.

Becca Costello: So to decide which sewer backups to help with, MSD does an inspection for each complaint they get. Sometimes it's really simple: sewer backup on a beautiful, sunny day when it hasn't rained in weeks? That's probably a private issue, unless the main sewer pipe has collapsed or something like that.

Ella Rowen: But when there are dozens, or hundreds, of complaints after a big rainstorm like the one in 2017, it can be harder to determine whether water in a basement is a sewer back up, or flooding from basement windows or a crack in the foundation. When Sue Bilz submitted HER claim, it was denied.

Sue Bilz: My original submitted claim was in August of 2017. I was contacted again by another person in the MSD to resubmit the claim in December.

Becca Costello: Sue decided not to resubmit the claim once she realized MSD needed to see original receipts for what was damaged. That means a 30 year old furnace and flooring put in during the 1950s. Even if she had those receipts, MSD would only offer a prorated amount.

Sue Bilz: To replace the furnace was over $6,000. The flooring in the bathroom, you know, I spent probably close to $7,000, the waterproofing was $10,000, so what are they going to give me a thousand bucks? So I thought, I'm going to replace it and my receipts. Then, if it happens again, then I will submit a claim.

Ella Rowen: Well it obviously happened again. This time in 2021.

Sue Bilz: I was called specifically. They asked me, we know Covedale had some incidents, was your house affected?

Becca Costello: Oh, so before you reached out to them, they reached out to you?

Sue Bilz: MSD, called me specifically Yes, the next day after the event. And they stated the float test had indicated that we had experienced a legitimate sewer backup.

Becca Costello: How did it feel to have that, I guess, confirmation.

Sue Bilz: Total, total verification that what we had been fighting for -- we were right. And we knew we were right.

Becca Costello: One of the way we're kind of trying to looking at this is like we're kind of solving a mystery, right? Who do you see as the villain? Is there a villain in this overall problem?

Sue Bilz: At one point when I wasn't getting any help, I felt that way. But as I talked to more people in the city and tried to collaborate, it's not any one person. So I mean, I think we as a government can do a better job, I think with the funding we can do a better job. I don't like to think of them as villains, although I know some people do. I always, I like to -- I'm a teacher, and I like to help solve things, and I like to work together.

Becca Costello: That's a really generous attitude, I think. You know, considering all of the issues you've had, I don't know, I can understand if you'd be a lot more frustrated than you are.

Sue Bilz: When we were told in '21 it was a legitimate sewer back up, that just proved our point. We knew, we knew we were right, and you don't always get that. So I mean, that was a blessing that we were finally told that we were right. And like I said, it's not as bad as it was, but it's still an issue that we need to resolve, and I think more people need to communicate better. I mean, I went around my whole street and I interviewed people, and I said, are you having issues? What kind of issues a lot of people, they just, they just make do, you know, and they don't push it. But when they go to sell their house, you know, it's going to affect the value of their house. I mean, I think neighborhoods need to work together.

Ella Rowen: Sounds like the city and the county could learn a thing or two from Sue Bliz. Maybe she could be their marriage counselor.

Becca Costello: Actually, this fraught relationship is apparently a lot better now than it used to be. That may be kind of hard to believe, considering where we left off in their story.

Victoria Parks: This is offensive. This is upsetting.

Ella Rowen: Yeah, I don't know how much hope I have for those two.

Becca Costello: And yet we're hearing good things from all sides. Here's MSD director Diana Christy.

Diana Christy: You know, rather than try to look to something that would be a different structure for MSD, the last few years, we've really just worked on improving that, you know, working relationship. We also had some clarity from the court, which helped. And the court really just clarified that, you know, the county is, with respect to consent decree, is leading those negotiations.

Becca Costello: Okay, yeah, there is that. The federal judge in charge of the consent decree, Judge Michael Barrett, issued a ruling in May 2020. He said officially, Hamilton County gets to lead the way in negotiating projects, and he took the opportunity to chastise both parties for how they'd acted.

Ella Rowen: Here's our friend and colleague, reporter Zack Carreon reading Judge Barrett's words,

Zack Carreon: The relationship between the city and the county has been marred by what the county refers to as dysfunction, or ongoing county city governance disputes. Yet this is a relationship where one party needs the other to function to the extent that there dysfunction in the relationship, one party is not to blame more than the other. Like any relationship, there needs to be communication, honesty, cooperation, understanding, trust and a lack of judgment. Rehashing or revising what has happened in the past does not move the relationship forward. It's a waste of precious time and rate payers money.

Ella Rowen: Do you feel like he got out of a therapy session that day and he had a lot on his mind? I mean, like, "what has happened in the past does not move the relationship forward" is so funny to me.

Becca Costello: It's literally like relationship counseling. It's incredible. It's incredible. Judge Barrett said the county is officially in charge of negotiating the consent decree with full cooperation and help from MSD at the city. But the county wanted the judge to declare once and for all that they are in control of MSD altogether, and Judge Barrett said he wouldn't do that. Here's Zack reading from Barrett's ruling again.

Zack Carreon: To be clear, the MSD is not a city of Cincinnati department which is funded by the county, and it should not be treated that way. However, the county is reminded that it should not micromanage MSD, but needs to allow MSD to do its job. The county and the city need to shift their focus from the past and create a structure and process for the future. If the parties are not able to stop the finger pointing and work collaboratively, the court will be forced to implement more draconian measures.

Ella Rowen: And so far, four years later, everyone has told us that they are focused on the future instead of rehashing the past.

Denise Driehaus: I'm not super interested in the divorce. I'm more interested in the mediation and bringing things together to the point where we're moving forward together with a common agreement on how we should move forward together.

Diana Christy: Yeah, well, I will say it has improved, and I'm very focused on having a very collaborative and positive working relationship, you know, myself and the rest of the MSD employees, we're all city employees, but we work very closely with the county, and I think over the last few years, that relationship has has improved a great deal.

Becca Costello: Most of these disputes were over the next phase of the Wet Weather Improvement Plan, phase two.

Ella Rowen: In 2023, EPA regulators approved a phase two a plan and decided to deal with the rest of phase two another time. Two A only has five projects, and they're pretty small compared to the rest of the wet weather improvement plan.

Becca Costello: So instead of bigger pipes and treatment plants, it's like some backup generators for an existing treatment plant. Remember Marilyn Wall, the Sierra Club volunteer that's been suing MSD for the past 20 years? She wasn't very impressed with Phase TwoA

Marilyn Wall: They have to finish them all by the end of 2024 which shows you this is not like the kind of plan you need, because you don't want to be negotiating it again and again every year.

Becca Costello: Yeah one year at a time, wow.

Marilyn Wall: That's, yeah, impossible. So that's good that they're finally getting done. But it's not nearly enough to really compensate for the fact that we spent five years not getting things done, you know, and I wouldn't say they didn't do anything, but there were, because there are many other projects, a non consent decree projects, but in terms of the consent decree, we weren't making progress.

Becca Costello: The next deadline is just two weeks from the release of this episode you're listening to right now. The county has to send its proposal for phase 2b to regulators by June 30, 2024. The draft is a 10 year plan expected to cost about $1.8 billion

Ella Rowen: We'll talk more in a future episode about where MSD is going to find almost $2 billion. Spoiler alert, money is definitely going on our bulletin board as another suspected villain.

Becca Costello: Next time on Backed Up, we'll talk about how MSD is keeping sewage out of waterways, and the number one thing that makes it an almost impossible task.

Lauren Casey: So these small amounts can make a big difference
 
Reese Johnson: There is a lot more rain coming. So this is getting more urgent as an issue, the

Darlene Cappel: The water just was coming out and just running right on down the street like a river, so and then all of a sudden that was cracking, and then the whole thing fell out, sound like a big old explosion.

Ella Rowen: Backed Up is reported and produced by Becca Costello — that's me — and Ella Rowen, with support from Casey Kuhn.

Becca Costello: Thanks to everyone who helped put this episode together and bring it to life: Tana Weingartner, Jenn Merritt, Ronny Salerno, Zack Carreon, Marshall Verbsky, Steven Baum, Brittany Mayti, Kevin Reynolds and Leslie Smith.

Ella Rowen: Maryanne Zeleznik is our VP of news. Jenell Walton is our VP of content. Nicole Tiffany made our podcasts cover art. Special thanks to Sam Ransohoff, Toni Carlson, Grace Abler, Stephanie Kuo, and Mike Russo.

Becca Costello: Go to wvxu.org/backedup to find a transcript of this episode. Plus lots of pictures and extra info. Basically everything except the smell of the sewers.

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.
Starting with WVXU as a weekend host, Ella was promoted to the engineering department full-time within her first six months. Some of her previous audio pursuits included location recording for commercials, independent podcasting, voice work on national ad campaigns, sound design and music composition. Her passion for audio was catalyzed at the age of 8 while watching WKRP in Cincinnati. After spending her childhood recording imaginary programs with friends and family, working in public radio now fulfills her lifelong dream.