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Friday, July 25, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 4/22/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Earth Day has area cleanup events both big, small

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

This Earth Day is like others in that it will be marked by a plethora of inspirational speeches, workshops, cleanups, films, recycling drives, and marketing campaigns of greener products.

Many events are being held for the weekend, when more people are expected to participate. Area churches, college campuses, malls, shopping centers, and other venues that people frequent will host a lot of them.

One that could provide some of the most important relief for western Lake Erie and the Toledo-area streams that feed into it is out of sight for most people.

The Toledo Waterways Initiative is a $521 million overhaul of the city’s sewage plant near Cullen Park in Toledo’s Point Place, as well as the collection of pipes and pumps throughout the metro area that are connected to it.

It is now 50 percent complete and on schedule to be finished in 2020, said Julie Cousino, TWI program administrator and an engineer in the city’s public utilities department.

If it doesn’t fall off pace again, the city’s unprecedented sewage project will capture an estimated 650 million gallons of raw, filthy sewage that normally spills into streams each year as a result of heavy rain. That would achieve an 80 percent reduction. The only future spills will be when there are monsoon-like downpours, Ms. Cousino said.

“We thought it was a good time to get that word out for Earth Day,” she said.

With the help of Maumee public relations firm Hart, the city launched the TWI’s redesigned Web site, toledowaterwaysinitiative.com/, this month. Ms. Cousino says it is an attempt to be more user-friendly.

Features include new video and graphics, with the introduction of a mascot named “Chuck,” a handsome woodchuck with blue swimming goggles who is serving as the program’s wildlife symbol.

Month-by-month data on the duration of combined sewer overflows can be retrieved from the Web site, as it has for years, except now it’s under a new heading called “Tech Data.” The city still does not report overflows in terms of volume.

The TWI project began in 2002, the result of a federal consent decree the city reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after years of untreated sewage releases that pollute water. Sewage spills contain a lot of bacteria from fecal contamination, as well as phosphorus that helps algae grow.

When the project is finished, eight of the 32 overflows will be eliminated, Ms. Cousino said.

“The simple fact is we’re cleaning up the waterways. It’s a very important project for Earth Day,” she said.

The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970, a turning point for the nation’s environmental movement.

Though Great Lakes pollution factored into its genesis, the final straw was a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif.

A highlight this year includes the Great American Clothes Cleanup sponsored by Keep Toledo/​Lucas County Beautiful, Inc., the Salvation Army, and others. Unwanted clothing, shoes, fabric, and used textiles can be brought to the Salvation Army drop-off site in the Macy’s wing of Franklin Park Mall from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Today’s events include an electronics recycling event hosted by Lucas County from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Davis College, 4747 Monroe St., and a composting workshop hosted by Way Public Library, 101 E. Indiana Ave., Perrysburg, from 7 to 8 p.m.

On Saturday, the Toledo Zoo will host its annual Party for the Planet.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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