Fire Chief Project: Ohio 5K race weaves through wastewater treatment plant

Perhaps the most unique 5K race in the country, this event takes runners on a treatment plant tour they won't soon forget.
Fire Chief Project: Ohio 5K race weaves through wastewater treatment plant
On June 14, runners will wind past digesters and clarifiers in the 5K Cuyahoga River Clean Water Classic.

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It’s not every day you see racers jogging through your wastewater treatment plant.

But on June 14, that’s precisely what’ll happen at the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, as runners, joggers and walkers participate in the second annual 5K Cuyahoga River Clean Water Classic. The race route winds through the plant’s 288 acres, weaving around buildings, digesters and clarifiers.

It’s like a plant tour on steroids.

And better yet, this public event is all for a good cause. Proceeds will go toward several organizations, including the United Way, United Negro College Fund and Community Shares, a coalition of locally based, nonprofit organizations. Public involvement and community outreach in one event? It’s what we here at TPO magazine would call “a Fire Chief Project win.”

In its second year, the event originated with the facility’s Employee Charity Committee and its Health & Wellness Committee, building on an already strong wellness program. In 2013, plant employees and their families raised more than $800 for local charities. Based on that success, organizers decided to invite the public to participate.

“We’re very excited to be able to open this race to the public,” says Shawn Hageman, sewer district chief of security and charity choice representative. “It gives us the opportunity to show our commitment to a healthy environment and healthy people.”

Participants get the standard event T-shirt (after all, what’s a race without an awesome T-shirt souvenir?), and winners will receive medals or plaques for several categories, including top overall male/female finishers and top finishers in each age group.

But better yet, every participant will see where millions of gallons of water are treated each day.

“Obviously, many people have never seen the inside of a treatment plant before,” says John Gonzalez, senior communications specialist. “So the fact that we’re running an event here will be eye-opening regarding the plant’s size and inner workings.”

5K races are super-popular/fun ways to prompt public involvement and discussion, whether it’s about clean water or just the appreciation of city infrastructure. If we haven’t convinced you yet, take a look at a few other 5Ks we’ve covered in the water and wastewater industry (See "Stormwater Runoff 5K" and "Runners Chase Leaks.") Who knows? Maybe we’ll be reporting on your facility next.


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