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Friday, August 26, 2016

PROFILES: How Kate's ability to grow has helped her career, and the health of her coworkers

Kate in her role as a maintenance worker.
Within nine years, Kate Rybarczyk’s work ethic took her from Custodian to Plant Maintenance Manager.

“As a mechanic I strengthened my problem-solving skills,” shared Kate from the Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant. “When something wasn’t working, we'd troubleshoot to determine how we could fix it, rebuild it, or modify it.”

Kate also worked to enhance her communications skills through District self-improvement courses, and utilized the Tuition Assistance Program to get an associate's degree from Tri-C. These opportunities led to her most recent management role.

RELATED NEWS: Have you considered a clean-water career?

Outside of work, Kate’s interests include landscaping, gardening, health and fitness, and winemaking. She is well-versed in all these topics. When asked for a health tip, Kate warned against processed food. “Everyone thinks they're convenient, but studies are showing negative long-term health effects.”

Kate’s passion for health and fitness led to her involvement in the Sewer District’s Wellness program. Alongside co-worker Mitch Falatach, Kate built a community garden at Westerly visible from the employee lunchroom nearby. This year, the garden has a variety of leafy greens, green peppers, hot and sweet peppers, and tomatoes.


“The garden makes [being] healthy convenient. If the operators are here at night, on the weekend, or someone is working overtime, they can go outside and grab what they need for a salad, instead of hitting the vending machine.”

In addition to the Wellness Program, Kate is involved in the Veteran’s Employee Resource Group, and she is Westerly’s lead for Charity Choice and the Women’s Employee Resource Group.

Kate, right, says these garden boxes she built at Westerly helped make being healthy more convenient.
– Story and photos by Yolanda Kelly

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

GREEN: Living wall breathes life into historic building in Ohio City


Flip a rain garden 90 degrees and what could you get? Something both striking and functional.

One beneficiary of the District’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program is the Striebinger Block building on West 29th Street in Ohio City.

The 1919 building boasts a “living wall” that is fed by rainwater collected from the roof and held in ground-level cisterns. During dry weather, the water is pumped up to plants mounted on the brick fa├žade. Catch basins at the bottom of the wall also capture and recirculate water back to the cisterns.





The Living Wall joins other District-funded green infrastructure projects in Ohio City, including rain gardens at Transformer Station (also on W. 29th) and the nearly-completed West Side Market parking lot. Together, these projects are taking advantage of Ohio City’s redevelopment activity and great soils to promote on-site stormwater management and reduce stormwater in the combined sewer system.

Story by Yolanda Kelly and Michael Uva

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

VIDEO: Watch this clean-water-loving bug build its own awesome rock armor for protection


Life as a caddisfly larva can't be easy.

Often found in fast-moving shallow streams with clean water and high levels of oxygen, much of their bodies as larvae are soft and unprotected, leaving them vulnerable to predators. To survive, they've evolved to secrete a waterproof glue that binds small rocks to their bodies to serve as camouflage and armor.

PBS Digital Studios gives us an up-close look at the amazing process.



What's it matter to us? Well, finding caddisfly larvae in streams is an indicator of good water quality. We conduct surveys in streams like the Cuyahoga River in the spring and summer to collect, count, and analyze them to make sure we are maintaining the best water quality possible.



Rock on, little caddisfly larva.

Monday, August 8, 2016

SPORTS: What would happen if Michael Phelps tried swimming in our tanks?


As swimmer Michael Phelps places more gold medals around his neck during these Olympic Games in Rio, we wondered how he'd fare in an environment more unusual than a 50-meter chlorinated pool.

Southerly first-stage aeration tanks
Could Phelps swim in one of these long bubbling channels known as an aeration tank? or perhaps the round in-ground-pool-like tanks nearby?

First, such a thing would not be a good idea, and the topic is not an invitation to try it. But second, the hypothetical does make for interesting discussion regarding the treatment process and the water's physical properties.

We asked our Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant Assistant Superintendent Dan Smith that question, turning our attention to two tanks along our common tour route: our clarifiers, and our aeration tanks.

Friday, August 5, 2016

NEWS: White House, blue future? Northeast Ohio leaders to help frame national discussion on water issues


How will the new White House prioritize the water needs of America's future?

Northeast Ohio's water sector leaders will contribute to that dialogue August 9, kicking off a series of nationwide listening sessions focused on developing a set of national policy priorities for the 45th Presidential administration.

The US Water Alliance is convening One Water for America Listening Sessions in as many as 12 different US cities this year, and Cleveland is hosting the first thanks to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and other partners. Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center at West Creek will host the opening event Tuesday, August 9.

According to the US Water Alliance, the sessions are intended to gather diverse perspectives on the challenges, opportunities, guiding principles and policy priorities to secure a sustainable water future for all.

Each session will convene a cross-section of leadership from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in a guided discussion, intended to help the new President's team recognize the critical role that water plays in advancing economic competitiveness, creating environmental sustainability and social equity.

Some of the participants include the Sewer District, the Cleveland Water Alliance, The Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Division of Water, local watershed groups, Cleveland Metroparks, NASA, and dozens more.

Follow tweets from the event using #OneWaterUS and our official account @neorsd.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

NEWS: Trustees set rates for 2017-2021, move to monthly billing also new January 1

Construction underway at the Easterly Treatment Plant.
Annual increase of 8.3%, average bill increases by about $4 per month beginning in 2017

Today, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the 2017 through 2021 rate schedule effective January 1, 2017.

Beginning January 1, the Sewer District also moves to monthly billing for sewer rates for Cleveland Water customers. The move is based on its billing agent Cleveland Water making its transition away from quarterly billing. All non-Cleveland Water customers will continue to be billed quarterly.

Projected monthly average residential bills from 2017 through 2021—based on our customers' average water consumption of 4,675 gallons per month—for Subdistrict 1 (Cleveland) and Subdistrict 2 (suburbs) can be found online.

Sewer District rates are set every five years following a comprehensive study of anticipated expenditures. Officials thoroughly analyze a variety of factors, including:
  • Planned infrastructure investment projects
    • Maintenance and repair of existing sewers
    • Increased capacity at wastewater treatment facilities
    • Other construction projects including Project Clean Lake’s federally mandated construction
  • Anticipated increases in chemical and energy costs
  • Existing and future debt service requirements
Two other components of the rate increase include the creation of a Member Community Infrastructure Program which would assist the Sewer District’s 62 member communities with local sewer infrastructure issues; and an increase in eligible customers' participation in the Sewer District’s affordability programs from 50% to 80% over the rate schedule period.

The fees for the Regional Stormwater Management Program per ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit) will not change during this rate cycle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

PROFILES: Operations team's top finish at state competition carries them to nationals this fall

Front: Christen Wood, Doug Dietzel, Dan Valek.
Back: Karl Ellis, Jimmy Spencer, John Corn.

New Orleans, here we come.

In June, the District’s Operations Challenge team competed at the Ohio Water Environment Association (OWEA) competition in Aurora, Ohio, and their top finish guaranteed them a spot at national competition in the Big Easy this fall.

Ops Challenges are held across the nation, and consist of five main events in the areas of Maintenance, Collections, Safety, Laboratory, and Process Control. Accuracy and speed are key to winning.

Our team—Christen Wood, Doug Dietzel, Karl Ellis, Dan Valek, and Jimmy Spencer, led by John Corn—took first place in Division II, first place in the Process Control event, and third place overall. They will represent OWEA in Division II of the national event at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans this September.

“This is the first time in about 20 years that the District has participated in the Ops Challenge,” said Unit Process Manager Christen Wood. “I saw the dedication required and the skills demonstrated and wanted to be a part of it.

“I heard from at least three OWEA reps and a WEF rep how pleased they were that the District is back in the Challenge,” said Operation & Maintenance Deputy Director Frank Foley.

John Corn explained how this type of competition goes hand-in-hand with the District’s training programs. “It creates cohorts who can learn best practices across the industry and incorporate it into work,” he said.

“To win, you can’t be good at just one thing,” explained Wood. “The lab people need to learn Maintenance, for example. Being able to leverage those differences makes the whole team stronger, and you’re learning things you wouldn’t normally come across in your job.”

“Events like this enhance the overall skill level of our staff,” said Corn. “We’re maximizing our capabilities and level of service to our customers.”

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Michael Uva, Senior Communications Specialist

Thursday, May 19, 2016

EVENT: 5 ways our Roadshows are not your typical public meeting

Every year we study rates and make projections for our financial future, we host public meetings to offer customers more information about their fees. This year is no different. But it will be different.

While that information is always critical, the standard introduction/PowerPoint/Q&A/thank-you-and-goodnight public-meeting structure does not always benefit those who take time to join us, and it's hard to cover the extent of how we use your sewer fees to protect our environment and your health.

For the first time ever, our series of what we're calling Roadshows—Your Sewer District, the next 5 years—brings an open-house style event across our service area to help you get the most out of the experience. Here's how:

Come when you want
Our evening meetings are open from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and our Saturday event is from 9:00 a.m. until noon. You can join us at any time during those hours to get questions answered, hear a presentation, or speak to our Customer Service reps. All the dates and locations are posted to find the one nearest you.

See what you like
The driving force behind these meetings are the proposed rates for the years 2017-2021. We know there are questions and concerns, and we'll have presentations scheduled every half-hour during the events. But we'll also have information booths about previous, current, and future construction projects, our lab work, our maintenance responsibilities, and more. Stop and visit any or all of the areas of most interest to you. It's where your sewer bill goes every quarter.


Talk to and hear from the experts
Our financial folks know finances. But they may not be experts in permit limits, traffic woes due to construction, or how to sign up for a cost-saving program. We'll have plenty of the right people there to help you.

Get questions answered
Do you want to know about stormwater fee credits? Or how your business can get registered as a vendor with us for work opportunities? The experts will know what you need and you'll find help at these events.

Take advantage of opportunities
Cost-savings, vendor registration, career opportunities, tour and presentation requests, all of these are opportunities to benefit you. Stop by and take action with a member of our team.