Lake Erie tributaries such as the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers and Swan Creek overflow with sewage during storm surges because of Toledo’s old combined sewer system. Sewage overflows are one of the biggest challenges to the restoration of the Great Lakes and her tributaries—contributing to the outbreak of blue-green toxic algae that has plagued the tourist and fishing season in Western Lake Erie this year.
Toledo has agreed to reduce its discharges of untreated sewage to a maximum of four times a year depending on the watershed. Its hand was forced by a lawsuit and the federal government, but the city now has a plan to eliminate this problem. The extensive improvements to the sewer system are expected to cost around $315 million, but they will also bring jobs to the area and dramatically improve the waterways, thereby inviting more recreational and tourist dollars.
This project is just another example of how restoration can have a positive impact on the economy as well as our quality of life.