Wittenberg Class Helps Study Stormwater Runoff Problem In Springfield

Oct 15, 2013

Wittenberg students evaluate a lot for a potential rain garden.
Wittenberg students evaluate a lot for a potential rain garden.
Credit Sarah K. Fortner

The City of Springfield has partnered with a Wittenberg professor and her Geology class to tackle an ongoing problem with storm overflow waste going directly into Buck Creek during rainstorms. The new partnership has come up with a plan to help fix the problem.

Springfield has an aging sewer system and when it rains all the stormwater goes into the same pipeline as the city's sanitary waste. The city has increased in size but the pipeline hasn't, and so there's an overflow of raw sewage.

To fight the problem, Springfield is looking for vacant lots to create rain gardens or wetlands that will allow the city to treat water before it's released into local streams and ponds.

Sky Schelle, is the stormwater coordinator for Springfield. He says there are a lot of communities in the Miami Valley that have this problem.

According to Schelle, "the US EPA has decided that raw sewage flowing into creeks is not a good thing." He adds that, "any community that has these problems has steps in place to alert the public to the dangers to keep people out of these streams at certain times. At the same time it's a problem that we want to fix and we should be fixing."

Wittenberg professor Sarah Fortner says her class is gaining real world experience with the storm-water project, but she believes it's also very  important for Clark County residents to understand water health issues.

Fortner says, "the Great Miami River is in the top ten most polluted in terms of nutrients and so anything we can do to reduce the inflow of nutrients into water will make our water quality better for people who like to go out near the stream to use their bike path, or to kayak and that sort of thing."

Both Schelle and Fortner say it could cost Springfield over $100 million to add extra pipelines to alleviate the sewage runoff problem, but using vacant lots as a solution would be less expensive.