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Hamilton County submits draft plan to reduce sewer overflows

A combination of stormwater and untreated sewage overflows from the MSD system into the Mill Creek in April 2024.
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
A combination of stormwater and untreated sewage overflows from the MSD system into the Mill Creek in April 2024.

Hamilton County officials have submitted the Phase 2B plan for bringing the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The 10-year plan is the next step in reducing how much untreated sewage and storm water overflows into waterways during heavy rainstorms. About 7 billion gallons of untreated sewage overflows into the Ohio River, the Mill Creek, and other waters every year. That’s about half the amount that was overflowing annually before the consent decree was put in place 15 years ago.

Assistant County Administrator Holly Christmann says the largest piece of Phase 2B was the Little Miami Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"We're looking at constructing what's called a high rate treatment facility there to operate during wet weather, and that is estimated to reduce over 1 billion gallons of overflow," Christman told WVXU.

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Other projects in Phase 2B should reduce annual overflow by another 500 million gallons.

The proposed plan will cost about $1.8 billion and will require sewer rate increases.

"I think the county and MSD and our partners did a good job balancing the requirements of the consent decree with ratepayer affordability and maintenance of the existing system," Christmann said.

Federal regulators must approve the plan and Christmann says negotiations are already underway. Christmann says she can't speculate on how long that process will take before approval, but work on the consent decree projects will continue in the meantime.

The full plan for Phase 2B is available on the county website at this link. At least a few more phases of work are expected after 2B before MSD is in full compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Learn more about sewage infrastructure and the consent decree in Backed Up, a new podcast from Cincinnati Public Radio: wvxu.org/backedup

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.