Nineteen months have passed since Judge John Adams of the federal district court rejected a proposed consent decree involving the city of Akron, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio EPA. Thatís almost two years during which the city would have made progress upgrading its antiquated combined sewer system.
Now the three parties have returned to the judge with a new plan to all but eliminate the annual discharge of up to 2 billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater into the Cuyahoga River, the Little Cuyahoga and the Ohio & Erie Canal. The judge has pressed the parties for concrete steps and better deadlines. He should be pleased enough with the advances to give his approval.
For starters, the parties have agreed that zero overflows would be permitted. Akron long has wanted more flexibility. The U.S. EPA has prevailed, the outcome along the tougher line the judge has pushed. The estimated $837 million project would be completed in 15 years, reflecting another concession from the city. It had called for having at least 18 years.
Part of the plea has been to ease the impact of the steep cost on ratepayers and to allow sufficient time to get such a large project completed. The judge has talked about 10 years for a deadline. The worry is, much of the difference would be consumed in litigation. This argument has chewed up two decades. Itís time to get the job done.