Replacing cracked sanitary sewer lines and repairing damaged manholes in the fledgling 10-year Inflow & Infiltration Sewer Rehabilitation Program is a necessary step, but it won’t completely flush Cleveland Utilities’ overflow headaches; at least, not without the buy-in of others.
Those “others” include all private customers — individual, commercial and industrial, according to Tom Wheeler, CU general manager.
In short, everyone will be asked to do their part and it starts with the new SCOPE 10 plan Wheeler proposed Thursday to members of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities.
Wheeler’s introduction of the “Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment” plan, a strategy to cover the same 10-year span — and beyond — as the I/I initiative, was met with enthusiasm by board members who described it as a “proactive” initiative.
The mechanics of SCOPE 10 will be drawn up by Littlejohn Engineering, the consultant already under contract with CU to complete the opening phase of the I/I project in the south Cleveland basin. The strategy will target actions over the next decade that will be needed to eliminate some of the sewer line hot spots that are allowing in the free flow of extraneous — or “unwanted” — water into the sanitary sewer system.
Just a few of the targets will be the launch of a “... service lateral program to repair individual customer service lines,” as well as putting a stop to the routine practice of connecting storm drains to the sanitary sewer system. This is often done not only by individual customers, but by the city of Cleveland, Wheeler explained.
Too, SCOPE 10 will explore methods to assure that commercial customers control the discharge of “fats, oil and grease” (known as FOG in the utility industry) into the sewer system, Wheeler said.
“Our industrial customers who have discharge permits will need to continue their commitment to operating their facilities to a very high standard,” the 40-year utility veteran told board members.
Of the municipality’s involvement, Wheeler offered a direct assessment.
“The city of Cleveland will also need to help,” he stressed. “We have incidents where storm drains may be connected to the sanitary sewer system. These connections need to be identified and removed. We have removed many of these types of connections, but there still could be others that have not yet been located.”
Although much of SCOPE 10 will involve physical improvements to the system, and the overall process, it also will focus public awareness.
“We’ve got to educate our customers,” Wheeler noted.
SCOPE 10 will be designed around another CU initiative recently approved by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation. The local utility calls it a “Management, Operations and Maintenance” program — or MOM — in which CU will continue to work toward complying with a TDEC Agreed Order from 2005 when the local utility was found to be violating its NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit related to sewer overflow and treatment plant operations.
Since that time, CU has complied with all TDEC mandates by closely following 14 requirements specified in the MOM guidelines. SCOPE 10 is a natural extension of MOM because it attacks the known, and unknown, sources of inflow and infiltration that contribute heavily to periodic overflow during periods of heavy rainfall such as that saturating the Bradley County area over the past couple of months.
Beyond the current I/I Sewer Rehabilitation Program, which has been funded $1.25 million each year for the next decade, “... Cleveland Utilities needs to continue its ongoing effort to improve the sewer collection system and ensure that our treatment facilities are the best available,” Wheeler said. “To accomplish this goal, we will need to expand our effort to other areas of the community.”
SCOPE 10 will be charted over the next 10 years and will incorporate multiple sectors of the community whose cooperation will be necessary in order for it “... to make a noteworthy impact on our inflow and infiltration issues,” Wheeler said.
To make it happen will require a formal plan that Littlejohn Engineering will develop, Wheeler said. The sewer rehab consultant’s involvement is a logical approach because of the ongoing I/I initiative, the CU leader explained.
“The plan will identify methods to be used to assess the existing condition of the sewer system and the projects necessary to ensure the system meets the requirements of our NPDES permit,” Wheeler noted. “The timing of the projects and the cost would also be identified.”
Wheeler told board members it isn’t just a plan, but a pledge.
“This is important because it formalizes Cleveland Utilities’ commitment to ensure our sewer system meets the requirements of our permit,” he said. “It outlines to the community that a plan is in place. With annual reporting of the plan, our progress in meeting the goals ... can be tracked and adjusted from year-to-year.”
Board members were not asked to vote on the proposal, but they gave it their informal blessing because of its expected impact on reducing overflow by engaging the efforts of others who contribute to inflow issues — namely, individual and commercial customers.
“SCOPE 10 is certainly a proactive approach,” Board Chairman Aubrey Ector said.
(Editor’s Note: Additional details about SCOPE 10 and MOM, and past efforts by Cleveland Utilities to curb its overflow issues since the early 1970s, will be published in future editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)
“This is important because it formalizes Cleveland Utilities’ commitment to ensure our sewer system meets the requirements of our permit. It outlines to the community that a plan is in place. With annual reporting of the plan, our progress in meeting the goals ... can be tracked and adjusted from year-to-year.” — Tom Wheeler