Letter to the Editor – Akron Consent Decree

posted in: Water Quality | 0

We totally agree with the Jan. 15 editorial, “The big dig.” Friends of the Crooked River has advocated for correcting Akron’s combined sewer overflows for two decades.

In the early days, when progress seemed nonexistent, our advocacy was quite adversarial. Things have changed. The city is committed to remedying the abominable situation, which it inherited.

And Friends of the Crooked River is a working partner with the city of Akron in the effort to remove untreated sewage discharges into the river. It was part of the Citizen Advisory Group, which spent the past two-and-a-half years reviewing the work of the city and its consultants.

The group was satisfied with the original plan. Since then, water quality protection and speed of implementation have been strengthened twice. Allowing no overflow events, the current plan is the most closely controlled solution in the country.

Some of the engineering is forward-thinking and provides cost savings over current methods. Friends of the Crooked River is more than satisfied now.

All the parties in the lawsuit are satisfied, including the city, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the federal EPA and the Justice Department. Only the federal judge seems discontented.

Judge John Adams says he is concerned the cleanup will take too long and unduly affect the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Representatives of the park served on the advisory group and attended public meetings. If they agreed with Adams’ concerns, they have not officially done so.

Like the rest of the region, Friends of the Crooked River is very concerned about contaminated water in the park. The Akron plan will improve conditions in the park to a higher degree and over a shorter time than would consent decrees for other Ohio cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

Adams says he speaks out of concern for the Cuyahoga River, designated an outstanding recreational resource. Friends of the Crooked River was instrumental in obtaining the designation. We believe the plan is proactive in re-establishing a swimmable Cuyahoga on a timeline both appropriate for the budget of the city and feasible for the project’s engineering requirements.

By proposing $100 million for sewers in its current budget, the city is moving ahead in good faith. However, without the decree, the city’s good faith is something that could change. The river and area citizens need the protection of the stipulated penalties that would be part of the implementation calendar in a consent decree.

We are waiting for Adams to do the right thing by certifying the consent decree. Wasting time and resources on extended litigation can only add delays and sour positive momentum.

Elaine Marsh

Conservation Director

Friends of the Crooked River