Dedication to Innovation: NEORSD uses Smart Technology to keep waters clean

On June 22nd, 1969, the Cuyahoga river burned. It wasn’t the first or the last time the pollution on the river ignited, but it was the time that history would remember.


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On June 22nd, 1969, the Cuyahoga River burned.

It wasn’t the first or the last time the river ignited, but it was the time that history would remember.

What could have felt like rock bottom for this industrial city instead became a significant turning point.

The fire inspired the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Act, and notably, the creation of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District that would spend the next 50 years keeping the Cuyahoga and other waterways safe from sewage and other contaminants.

On the eve of the #Cuyahoga50 celebration of a River Reborn, Cleveland Water Alliance is celebrating 50 years of innovations that have contributed to a cleaner Cuyahoga and Lake Erie with it’s partners, members, and friends.

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Erie Hack

To celebrate #Cuyahoga50, Cleveland Water Alliance issued a challenge at the beginning of 2019.

A challenge to innovate the Lake and its waterways. A challenge to our Lake Erie Basin communities to develop smarter, more viable, faster, more innovative technologies and ideas to protect and preserve our water resources for years to come.


Over the next five months, over 50 teams developed and pitched ideas for smarter, safer water in the hopes of winning a share of $100k in Erie Hack. The Erie Hack Innovation Summit convened water experts, freshwater technology buffs, entrepreneurs, and teams hopeful of winning the grand prize. They all had one thing in common: a dedication to water and innovation.


That dedication is familiar to CWA Member Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. NEORSD has long used innovation and Smart Technology to ensure clean, healthy waterways. Here are some examples of their practices over the years:


  • AUTOMATED REGULATORS: Sewer District installed automated regulators in the 1970’s and 1980’s to maximize storage capabilities in the interceptor sewers. As a result, the Sewer District reduced the amount of combined sewer overflows at Edgewater Beach from 40 to 50 times a year to once every two years.



  • MASTER PLANNING: In 1994, the District authorized the development of an overall master plan for CSO control, followed by segmented long-term plans for the Mill Creek, Westerly, Easterly, and Southerly drainage areas. The District’s long-term plan for CSO control recommended deep tunnel storage for combined wastewater, a technology now widely used in metropolitan areas across the country. Rather than discharging to the environment, the combined sewage and rainwater is conveyed into a storage tunnel. After the rain stops, flow is pumped up (or flows by gravity) to a wastewater facility for full treatment.  The Sewer District has invested $40 t0 $50 million in CSO facilities plans.


  • MONITORING: Since 1986, the Sewer District has had a program to monitor the water quality of surface waters in its service area. The District performs water quality sampling to provide information regarding the condition of local streams, rivers, and Lake Erie. This sampling can provide meaningful data, including information on bacteria, pollutants, and nutrients such as phosphorus.


  • MONITORING: Fish: Since the early 1990s, the District has monitored aquatic communities in the Cuyahoga to determine the overall health of the river. The District also has surveyed benthic macroinvertebrate communities since the late 1980s. These organisms play important roles in the environment: they are a food source for organisms that live in and around the water, and they also use and re-distribute organic matter and nutrients in the water. Ohio EPA use benthic macroinvertebrates to determine if a stream segment is meeting Clean Water Act goals, or if it needs improvement. For example, based on comparisons of samples from 2007 and 2014 from Mill Creek in Warrensville Heights, Mill Creek has improved from “Needs Improvement” to “Healthy.”


  • INDUSTRIAL PRETREATMENT: Since 1984, the Sewer District has had an EPA-approved Industrial Pretreatment Program. The Clean Water Act gives the District the authority to regulate industrial wastewater discharges to its collection system, the sewers and the plants.



NEORSD is hosting a River Reborn celebration on June 22nd, 2019 on the banks of the Cuyahoga. Join them to celebrate 50 years of progress. They will host emcee Dan Moulthrop of The City Club and #Cuyahoga50 partners to mark the anniversary of the 1969 river fire and enjoy the #RiverReborn. Live remarks from state and local officials, a dedication and tour of critical Cuyahoga River infrastructure, a groundbreaking for the 4th leg of the Towpath Trail, plus free ice cream and live music for all.


Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is a Cleveland Water Alliance Member and a Lead Sponsor of Erie Hack 2.0.

Savannah Tracy