That’s why Cleveland Utilities is working overtime to notify residents in the northwest corner of town that manhole inspections and smoke testing of existing sewer lines will resume Wednesday, weather permitting. Utility and contractor crews smoked some 34 miles of wastewater lines last fall to launch CU’s Inflow & Infiltration Sewer Rehabilitation Program, a 10-year initiative intended to curtail the worst of the utility’s I/I issues.
Excessive inflow and infiltration, which is worsened during periods of heavy rainfall, contributes to localized flooding, manhole overflows and in some isolated instances sewer backups in private residences.
Because of the complexities involving I/I, and the many factors that influence it, Cleveland Utilities has broadened the 10-year initiative by designing and launching SCOPE 10, an acronym used to reference the costly strategy known as “Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment.”
SCOPE 10 involves a collection of processes and tests, all of which are aimed at identifying damaged lines, and repairing or replacing them.
Smoke testing is used to identify leaks in the CU sewer system. To pinpoint the source of leaks, which allow for intrusion of unwanted water into existing lines, smoke is injected into the system. Areas where smoke rises — from the ground, manholes or even household plumbing — are often an indicator that a leak or line breakage exists.
The comprehensive initiative, which Cleveland Board of Public Utilities Chairman Aubrey Ector called a “proactive approach,” kicked off last year in the south Cleveland basin and is now expanding its coverage area. For much of the fall, several south Cleveland neighborhoods became well-acquainted with smoke testing and with what SCOPE 10 and I/I are all about.
Beginning Wednesday, several neighborhoods in the city’s northwest quadrant will be getting a look for themselves.
Greg Clark, wastewater rehabilitation manager who has been tabbed to lead CU’s complicated SCOPE 10 initiative, said this week’s scheduled resumption of the fogging will be similar to that conducted last fall.
Neighborhoods in these areas can expect to see CU, Littlejohn Engineering and contractor crews conducting manhole inspections and smoke testing: Green Drive, Ridgeview Drive, 22nd Street, 20th Street, Winwood Drive, 19th Street, Westside Drive, 18th Street, 17th Street, Ohio Avenue, Clingan Drive, Mohawk Court, Everhart Drive, Knollwood Drive and Knollwood Circle.
Once testing is completed in these areas, crews will move on to other neighborhoods. Cleveland Utilities will attempt to notify affected area neighborhoods in advance of smoke testing through announcements using local news media outlets and handouts.
Residents where testing is being conducted are reminded they are welcome to approach on-site crews to ask questions, seek additional information and to verify their presence as CU, Littlejohn or contractor representatives involved in the I/I and SCOPE 10 testing.
Questions may also be directed to Cleveland Utilities at 472-4521 or to Clark’s CU office at 478-9377.
SCOPE 10 is thought to be the most comprehensive I/I initiative ever conducted by Cleveland Utilities. Its magnitude continues to expand as evidenced by the growing price tag. The project’s original cost was first calculated to be about $14.9 million; however, as more information became available about the volume of work to be required, the extent of damage and material costs, the expense has doubled to $29 million.
This will lead to wastewater rate increases over the next few years, according to a report submitted in late May to the CU Board. Ken Webb, senior vice president of finance, reported funding SCOPE 10 will require wastewater rate hikes of 4.5 percent in Fiscal Years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and a 5 percent jump in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020.
CU has scheduled no rate hikes for FY 2013, but in order to make an appreciative difference quickly in I/I, additional funding will be necessary in wastewater over the next eight years.
I/I not only contributes to manhole overflows and localized flooding, it also creates potential health hazards, too many of which could lead to violations of the utility’s NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit which regulates pollutants within a utility’s water and wastewater system.
Violations could also invite involvement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a federal department that has already stepped in to force surrounding utility companies to address chronic overflow issues. Recent EPA mandates have been leveled against neighboring utilities in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Brentwood and Oak Ridge.
“These utilities have currently committed to spend in excess of $2.2 billion to comply with EPA orders,” Clark told CU Board members last month. “These communities have either been required to increase rates or have had to raise rates to fund the (sewer rehab) programs.”
Clark said these mandatory rate increases have ranged from 50 to 330 percent. CU hopes to accomplish some of the same goals through its own sewer rehab program while doing it with much smaller 4.5 and 5 percent sewer rate hikes.
If sewer overflow is not addressed immediately, CU could fall in violation of its NPDES permit thereby forcing EPA to impose sewer moratoriums. No growing community wants such moratoriums because they can delay, or in some cases even cancel existing, new or planned development.
“It’s very critical we do the work,” Clark told the board previously.
And that’s why CU is progressing with SCOPE 10.
Weather permitting, Wednesday’s scheduled resumption of smoke testing will be the next step in the local utility’s quest to remedy one of its most pressing problems.