Bob Downing

The public will have a chance this week to weigh in on Akronís expensive plan to address concerns over its sewer system.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday on Akronís revised plan to curtail sewer overflows. The meeting will be in the auditorium of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St.

The meeting will consist of a public information session and a public hearing.

Akronís revised plan has a big price tag ó $890 million. Officials have said sewer rates could triple or even quadruple to pay for the mandated improvements.

The city wants to build two underground tunnels to store sewer overflows, plus 10 concrete storage basins around the city to control the overflows to the Cuyahoga and Little Cuyahoga rivers and the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Also planned are relief sewers, high-rate treatment facilities and expansion of the cityís existing wastewater treatment plant off Akron-Peninsula Road.

The sewer projects must be completed by Oct. 31, 2027.

The plan is part of a negotiated consent decree between the U.S. Justice Department, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWineís office and the city.

In January, Akron and the federal government announced that they had agreed on Akronís proposed sewer remedy.

The Ohio EPAís approval of the long-term control plan is required before the proposed consent decree can be submitted to U.S. District Court Judge John Adams for his approval.

Last March, Adams rejected a similar proposed consent decree. He said he wanted the cleanup speeded up, saying the old agreement gave Akron too much time to complete the sewer work. He also complained that the pollution affected water quality in the Cuyahoga River in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

At the center of the case are Akronís 34 remaining combined sewers that dump raw, untreated sewage into local waterways after heavy rains and snow melts.

Up to 2 billion gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage annually end up in local waterways from Akronís combined sewers.

The latest plan calls for zero untreated overflows to the local waterways after rains in a typical year. In a rainy year, there would still be overflows to the streams and the canal.

About 30 percent of Akronís sewer system that serves 328,000 people in Akron and 13 suburbs are combined sewers.

The Ohio EPA is accepting comment on Akronís plan through March 7. Comments should be sent to Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216, or emailed to chris.bowman@epa.ohio.gov.

The EPA will consider all comments prior to agreeing to a final plan.

The revised plan and related documents are available for public review at the Ohio EPAís Northeast Ohio regional office, 2110 E. Aurora Road, Twinsburg. Call 330-963-1200 for more information.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.