Mayor's Corner: Lakewood's Innovative Integrated Wet Weather Improvement Plan
One thing we all love about Lakewood is the charming, historic character of our city – but we also understand that with age comes an increased need for upgrades, repairs, and maintenance. And these things can be costly. Unfortunately, when it comes to our infrastructure, Lakewood is currently facing the challenge of having water and sewer systems that are over a century old.
You may have read or seen the news about the needed repairs for the sewer system infrastructure. However, this is not new. The City of Lakewood has been working on addressing these challenges for well over a decade – performing research and analysis, engaging in innovative planning, and working hand-in-hand with the US EPA to come up with an approach to address overflows of our sewer lines during storm events. This month, we were pleased to announce that the City had entered into a partial consent decree with the federal government that formalizes elements of the City’s Integrated Wet Weather Improvement Plan (IWWIP), which was adopted by the City in early 2019.
Lakewood is the first place in Ohio to adopt an Integrated Wet Weather Improvement Plan (IWWIP). We also were able to convince the EPA that our IWWIP was the best way to address the problems we are facing. In fact, the terms of the consent decree are based on Lakewood’s own plan – so rather than the EPA dictating terms of what will happen, the City was able to come up with its own approach that suits our unique system and needs. That is highly uncommon and shows that Lakewood is a leader in this area.
As part of the consent decree, the City has formalized its previously planned investment of $86 million in sewer improvement projects. Last year, the City committed $25 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to its efforts to achieve the IWWIP, which will help address the costs related to the consent decree. The City has also agreed to pay a modest civil penalty for this type of case of $100,000. For comparison sake, the City of Elyria just entered a similar agreement with the EPA, and the fine involved is two times the amount Lakewood must pay. While we would have preferred no fine, the law mandates we had to pay something, and we believe that our comparatively low fine shows that Lakewood’s innovative and cooperative approach to solving these problems was recognized by the EPA.
By implementing our IWWIP and the consent decree, Lakewood is finally addressing a problem that has exposed our city and ratepayers to liability for many years. By moving forward, we will protect the waters of both the Rocky River and Lake Erie while bringing our city into compliance with state and federal law. This is another important step that improves the local environment and shields the ratepayers of Lakewood from exposure to daily fines from the federal government in the future. My administration will continue to keep you informed on this major project as it is implemented.