What is a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO)?
A sanitary sewer overflow is the release of untreated sewage into the environment. A SSO can occur when a sewer pipe breaks or is blocked, or when a sewage pump station fails, or when there is a significant amount of rainfall and there is infiltration and inflow of storm water into the sanitary sewer system and the wastewater treatment plant is forced to bypass untreated sewage. Many Lake County communities suffer from infiltration of storm water into the sanitary sewer system. Infiltration of storm water occurs from the natural aging process of the system such as years of wear and tear on moving parts (pumps, valves), freeze and thaw cycles, and deterioration of pipes and joints due to exposure to salt and other corrosive substances.
Overflowing manhole during a heavy rain event
Sanitary pumping station failure and overflow
Why should we be concerned about sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs)?
Untreated sewage contains varying concentrations of disease causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. These disease causing organisms can cause diseases and illnesses such as:
- Gastroenteritis, hepatitis, diarrhea, vomiting
- Typhoid fever, Cholera
- Giardiasis, Cryptosporidiosis
The release of disease causing organisms impacts the water quality of our rivers, streams and Lake Erie. Lake Erie is the source of drinking water for 11 million people, thousands of thousands of which live in Lake County, and it serves as a major recreational asset for swimming, boating and fishing. Lake Erie supports the largest commercial fishing industry in all the Great Lakes. SSOs have an impact our natural resources such as Lake Erie. SSOs can cause public and private property damage from back up of sewage into homeowner basements. SSOs release varying concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen into Lake Erie which contributes to the formation of harmful algae blooms (HABs) that threaten the drinking water supply and the recreational uses of Lake Erie .
The USEPA and the Ohio EPA are now requiring operators of large sewage treatment systems to provide information to the public and notify them when there has been a sanitary sewer overflow. The following links will connect you various websites for wastewater treatment systems in Lake County where notifications of SSOs are posted as they occur:
Lake County Department of Utilities:
For further information on sanitary sewer overflows and their impact visit: