CLEVELAND (AP) - Cockroaches, sludge and sewage fill a cavernous brick sewer that lies about 50 feet below downtown.
Workers are clearing the mess out in the largest sewer-cleaning job in the city's history.
The cleanup is part of a $14 million project started last year by the regional sewer district to reduce the amount of sewage that overflows into Lake Erie during rainstorms.
But tidying up the Lakeside Avenue sewer is a much bigger job than officials expected. The extra work needed to clear out the enormous amounts of sediment and packed sand in the pipe will double the project's cost from the initial estimate of $7 million and add another year.
"It's the low point of Cleveland -- it catches everything," said Tom Shively, construction supervisor for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. "We didn't have a good handle on the existing conditions down there."
That includes items like wire, rope, wood and a possibly rotted mattress.
"We haven't found any bodies or jewelry yet," said Tony Paglia, project manager for Marra Majestic, a construction firm that is doing the work for the regional sewer district.
The tunnel carries waste from downtown Cleveland and east side cities to the Easterly Sewage Treatment Plant.
For decades, whatever washed off the street ended up in the sewer. Crews have already cleared out 200 dump truck loads of material, and by the time they finish, they'll have removed another 800 truck loads.
Water cannons push the debris down the tunnel to a manhole, where workers use an industrial vacuum to suck up the debris before hauling it off to a landfill for its burial.
The cleanup is the first part of a larger pollution-control project by the sewer district, which plans to build 40 miles of tunnels and sewers to clean up Lake Erie, Euclid Creek and other polluted waterways on Cleveland's east side.