The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) is planning a river restoration project to alleviate combined sewer overflows (CSO) in the Lower Mill Creek watershed, which contributes 50% of Hamilton County’s annual CSOs of 53 billion L. MSD will demolish dilapidated buildings to restore Lick Run channel to an open, flowing stream — a landmark experiment in the benefits of green infrastructure. The restoration is part of Project Groundwork, a $3.2-billion initiative enacted to address a 2006 consent decree mandating that MSD capture, treat, or reduce their CSOs by 85% and eliminate all sanitary sewer overflows — about 378 million L annually.

A traditional solution presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency was an underground storage tunnel measuring 9-m in diameter and stretching 1.9 km. The river restoration should achieve the same results — a 7.6-billion L reduction in CSOs — at a greatly reduced cost. This project also is expected to revitalize the neighborhood of South Fairmount and give EPA an opportunity to collect data on green infrastructure.