Cleveland Kicks Off 'Year of Clean Water' With Sustainability Initiative

In Cleveland — home of the Cuyahoga River — wastewater treatment plants will join other government organizations to celebrate clean water and sustainability.
Cleveland Kicks Off 'Year of Clean Water' With Sustainability Initiative
As part of the 2015 Year of Clean Water, the Northeast Regional Sewer District will hold an open house, complete with educational opportunities.

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Building a “thriving green city on a blue lake” is the tagline for Sustainable Cleveland 2019 — a 10-year initiative that hopes to create a vibrant city with a flourishing natural environment. And as part of the multiyear initiative, the Ohio city has dubbed 2015 the “Year of Clean Water,” which is drawing participation from local water and wastewater utilities.

As part of Mayor Frank Jackson’s initiative, Cleveland focuses on one key area each year leading up to 2019. The initiative creates a framework for citizens to work together to focus on sustainability issues necessary for a thriving society and economy.

“A sustainable economy creates opportunities for economic prosperity, increased quality of life and the improved physical and social health of our community; clean water is fundamental to that future,” says Jackson in a press release.

The city’s location on Lake Erie — the 12th largest body of freshwater in the world — makes it an ideal venue to celebrate what water brings to the community. The city is also home to the Cuyahoga River, which was once so polluted the river repeatedly caught on fire. In fact, after a 1969 fire, the river landed on the cover of Time magazine and became the springboard for national clean water efforts.

Through October 2015, local partner organizations will host fun, family-friendly educational events that “highlight local efforts to keep our water drinkable, swimmable and fishable,” says Kristin Braziunas, program director of the Cleveland Water Alliance, one of about 15 local partners of the initiative.

Highlighting wastewater
The Northeast Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is a returning partner, and it is gearing up for its eighth annual open house, which will be held Sept. 19. Last year, the event drew about 500, and this year, NEORSD hopes to double that, according to Jenn Elting, senior public information specialist with NEORSD.

NEORSD has three plants in its service area and serves about 1 million customers. The open house will be held at Southerly plant, the district's largest plant, which is located on 250 acres on the Cuyahoga River and treats about 125 million gpd.

Elting admits the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire “was the impetus for the national attention for our clean waterways.”

As part of the Year of Clean Water, NEORSD’s open house will include about 40 to 50 exhibits, highlighting everything from fish species to water pollution.

“So much of our work is underground, unseen,” Elting says. “This offers the opportunity to show what we do … to help protect our clean water environment.

“The one thing that is great is that people get a chance to see firsthand the work that is done with the bills that they pay.”

Plant tours are always interesting, especially for students.

“The kids are very interested,” she says. “We do plant tours throughout the year, but not for students under the age of 10. They want to know where the water goes when I flush the toilet.”

Elting says subject matter experts — from biologists and chemists to water-quality specialists — conduct the tours, and there are also many hands-on experiments for all ages. The display of heavy equipment is another draw for kids, who love to see themselves behind the wheel.

In short, it’s one big day of celebrating water and, of course, sewage treatment.

“We definitely put the 'ew' in 'sewer,'” Elting laughs.

Also on the agenda
Other special events planned for the Year of Clean Water include World Water Day on March 21, EarthFest on April 19, which is considered the country’s longest running Earth Day celebration, and an open house at the Cleveland Water Treatment Plant on May 9.

New this year is the Clean Water Tour and Sweepstakes. At every sponsored event throughout the Year of Clean Water, people can enter a raffle. In addition to winning smaller prizes (such as tickets or memberships to local venues), all entries will go into a drawing for a two-night stay at the Stanford House at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The renovated historic venue sleeps 30.

For more information about the Year of Clean Water events, visit


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