CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - More than 200 feet below the surface of Cleveland, the city is not quiet. Instead, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is at work, building seven tunnels that will re-route overflow wastewater to protect the Cuyahoga River.
This is important because of what happens when there’s an excess of rain, which can cause sewage and contaminants to seep into the river.
The tunnels will redirect the water so that won’t happen.
“Instead of sewage over-flooding into the river, we store it, 200 feet deep, until the rain event is over,” said Project Manager Doug Lopata. “Then we pump it up at the other end of the tunnel to the treatment plant, and it gets full treatment instead of going out and polluting the environment.”
The fourth tunnel, called the Westerly Storage Tunnel, is currently under construction. When it's finished, it will redirect 300 million gallons of water over the course of a year. The tunnel will span two miles, running underneath areas of Ohio City and Tremont.
"The big benefit is that 300 million gallons that used to go out to the Cuyahoga River, polluting the river, will now go in here and get full treatment," said Lopata.
There are other benefits too, including a decrease in flooding risk for homeowners during quickly rising waters.
The move toward a progressive sewer management system puts Cleveland in sync with other large cities, including Chicago, that have begun creating similar tunnels over the last several years.
The Cleveland tunnels have been in the works since the 1990s.
Overall, the project is a $3 billion investment in the health and preservation of the Cuyahoga River.