On March 28,2002, the Sierra Club filed a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue the City of Columbus for its illegal sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). SSOs are where raw sewage flows into basements, streets and streams. They have been illegal since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.

· Columbus has had over 10,000 reported sewage backups into basements in the last 5 years. The city routinely denies responsibility, when in most instances they are at fault. Columbus also refuses to pay damages, telling people to sue. The Sierra Club believes there are many unreported backups, since many people do not know they can report, and others give up reporting after getting no restitution from the city previously. Some backups have caused tens of thousands of dollars of damages to individual homes.

· Columbus has at least 106 monitored sanitary sewer overflows. These are illegal, but are tracked and reported, at least part of the time. Under the Clean Water Act, the city could be fined $25,000 for each location for each day of overflow. Reported overflows in the last 5 years add up to fines of over $2 million.

· Columbus has over 900 sanitary sewer overflows that are not tracked or monitored, a very serious violation of the Clean Water Act.

· Sewer overflows are a serious threat to public health. Fecal coliform and other bacteria and viruses threaten wildlife and human health. Chemicals and effluents from industry also go into our streams untreated. Over 2.9 BILLION gallons of raw sewage flow into the Scioto yearly from Columbus’ 2 sewage treatment plants alone.

· The Ohio EPA has not enforced the law, repeatedly overlooking all violations. This is in spite of the fact that good employees at the lower levels have worked hard to try to get the law enforced. The leadership of Ohio EPA has become politicized, with the last 2 directors being appointed from industry.

· Behind closed doors, the Ohio EPA negotiated a “deal” with Columbus, excluding environmental groups and citizens, in order to avoid the Sierra Club lawsuit. After 30 years of ignoring violations, in 2 months the OEPA came up with a deal to “prosecute” Columbus. This “solution” could prevent a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act.

· In 60 days, Columbus came up with a plan to spend half a billion dollars to correct SSOs. This is a great victory for the environment. However, the money may be spent to extend sewers into the Lockbourne area, adding more sewage to a system that is already overcapacity, a major cause of the overflows. There is no moratorium on new sewer construction, and dates for completion of projects are far in the future. OEPA made a deal to reduce Columbus’ fines to a pittance.

· The Sierra Club has filed 2 more Notices of Intent to Sue Columbus, one for combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, (where sewage mixes with stormwater in the same pipe) and another for the over 900 highly illegal connections of sanitary sewers directly into storm sewers.

· Why does Columbus have this problem? Residents’ sewer fees are being spent to extend new sewers into the countryside. With new sewers as a priority, Columbus’ operation and maintenance (O & M) is sadly deficient. Grease ordinances are not enforced. O & M consists of unplugging sewers to relieve basement backups, rather than monitoring and upgrading sewers to prevent future problems. Since Columbus lacks planning for development, the new sewers are creating unplanned sprawl . Inner city residents are subsidizing wealthy developers on the fringes, who pay only a fraction of the cost of the new sewers. This transfer of wealth from poor to rich is degrading the city’s infrastructure in a serious manner.