Underground Mysteries

“What we do is tunnel,” says Marlene Sundheimer, Director of Law for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). Under our feet is a vast, intricate system of pipes, ladders, and other infrastructure we never think about—but it’s profoundly vital to our quality of life. Now, the Cuyahoga Land Bank has joined that system with an agreement to acquire and demo properties to help NEORSD in its mission.house
Why does the Sewer District need properties? Simply put, NEORSD is continually improving, burrowing, creating and repairing pipes for collecting sewage, which moves along the pipes toward its final destination: a wastewater treatment plant. Recently, NEORSD entered into a “consent decree” with the U.S. and Ohio Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs)—a 25-year, $3-billion series of capital projects called “Project Clean Lake” that will reduce sewer overflows. That commitment covers deep tunnels, storage tunnels and improvements at treatment plants, the construction of relief sewers and green infrastructure projects like rain gardens and bioswales to manage stormwater runoff.  In order to dig tunnels, build sewers or install bioswales, NEORSD needs to acquire properties, test for asbestos, and perform other demolition-related tasks.demo
The Land Bank has agreed to help facilitate property acquisition and demolitions for the NEORSD. “Those folks at the Land Bank have been very helpful to the Sewer District,” says Julie Blair, Assistant Director of Law. “They know everything about foreclosures of abandoned properties, so they’re a terrific resource.”
The agreement went into effect in July, and the NEORSD is acquiring its first property on East 109th Street. “These are green infrastructure projects,” Sundheimer says. “They’re a way to utilize vacant properties, and also to help relieve blight in the neighborhoods.”

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