Sep 14, 2007

Lansing Officials: 15 More Years to Control CSO

Money issues, scope of program slowing the process

In light of recent criticism for lagging behind Grand Rapids, Mich., in reducing polluted storm water runoff into the Grand River, officials in Lansing said it will take 15 more years to complete the city's combined sewage overflow (CSO) elimination program.City representatives told a Clean Our River Environment (C.O.R.E.)group information session's attendees that financial limitations and the scope of the program are hindering program progress.Chad Gamble, Lansing's public services director, said the city launched its 30-year storm water and sanitary sewer-separation program in 1992 at a cost of about $500 million. The project will take the additional 15 years as well as $240 million more to complete, he said."I know a lot of you have questioned why Lansing got 30 years to clean up this river. This is why," Gamble said. "A half a billion dollars is a very difficult number to swallow."Even if all the necessary funding for the project was available, he added, the project timetable could move forward only a couple of years because of the difficult logistics involved in tearing up streets and disrupting local businesses and residents.Gamble said the over the course of the program's first 15 years, CSO has been reduced to 392 million gal in 2006--about a 33 percent reduction. This year, Lansing has discharged approximately 267 million gal of CSO into the Grand and ajacent Red rivers. Grand Rapids, however, discharged 32 million gal. Gamble reminded listeners that Grand Rapids launched its CSO program in 1988, four years prior to Lansing's startup.CSO has been a highly debated environmental issue surrounding the Tri-Cities because discharges are often followed by no-water contact advisories that typically last three days for the Grand River's entire length. Area tourism officials point to the negative effect beach closings and cleanliness concerns have in their industry.Gamble acknowledged that Lansing needs to improve communication with West Michigan regarding its cleanup efforts. The city's CSO project involves the installation of new sewer lines and the dedication of former combined sanitary and storm water lines exclusively to storm water. To date, Lansing has abandoned 16 of 40 CSO structures. Officials are also looking into various storm water management methods, such as rain gardens and disconnecting roof drains from combined sewer lines, to control its flow."Public relations has a lot to do with successes and letting people know about those successes," Gamble said.C.O.R.E. founder Kaye Nedderman said, "I think they did a good job, and the public relations on their part simply had not happened over here. I just wish they could be done sooner."