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Using On-site Systems to Help Offset Combined Sewer Overflows


More than 770 communities across the country are implementing long-term control plans to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s requirement to reduce the number of combined sewer overflows (CSO). Most communities with CSOs are located in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions and the Pacific Northwest (see Figure 1), affecting approximately 40 million people. The long-term control plans include green solutions such as rainwater harvesting systems in commercial buildings. Plumbing engineers will definitely be part of developing design solutions to control this problem.

Unfortunately, the control plans are costing large amounts of money to implement. For example, in New York City the Bloomberg administration is set to commit $2.4 billion in public and private investment to applying new environmental technologies. Other cities in the country are spending more than $1 billion. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has tentatively assented to a proposal by the city to introduce infrastructure to retain storm water before it reaches the sewer system and overloads it. This approach reflects a shift from traditional sewage-control methods such as underground storage tanks and tunnel systems to techniques like rainwater harvesting systems.