Great Lakes group wants to change how cities manage rainwater overflow

Nov 20, 2017

Rain overflow can lead to raw sewage ending up in rivers, streams, and the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Commission is launching an initiative to change the way cities handle water.

In 2014 roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage or stormwater was released into the Great Lakes, and environmental groups say that overflow is due to poor stormwater management.

Michael Polich is with the Great Lakes Commission. He said the Commission is reaching out to cities across the Great Lakes to talk about their rain management systems.

“Especially in older communities where pipes hold not only the stormwater but also the raw sewage these systems can be overwhelmed and some of that water will overflow - so stormwater and raw sewage - right into the ponds, the streams, the rivers, and eventually our Great Lakes.”

Polich said they are promoting a variety of technologies including pervious pavement and simple ways to remove sediment from water.

“There’s technologies around that are built to handle water in that way. Things like rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs or rain barrels, or porous pavement. Really try to mimic nature and how it handles stormwater.”

Polich said most rain drainage systems are one hundred years old - and it’s high time for an update.

He said they are working with cities from Buffalo New York to Thunder Bay Ontario.