CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) – Heavy rain Monday closed beaches in Ohio as gallons of storm water and sewage overflowed into Lake Erie, causing concerns of bacteria contamination.
This has been a massive problem the Northeast Ohio Sewer District has been trying to solve for years and it still has a long way to go.
“This is disappointing that the park is closed. We drove two-and-a-half hours,” said Bushra Ali, who was planning to visit Edgewater Beach.
Ali and her family were visting from Pittsburgh. The Labor Day downpour left them unable to swim at the beach they love.
“The sad part is me and my kids, we were walking on the beach and after 15, 20 minutes, then somebody reached us and told us, ‘You can’t be here.'”
The Northeast Ohio Sewer District released a video showing thousands of gallons raw sewage overflow streaming into Lake Erie.
“The sewer pipes just don’t have the capacity,” said Jeannie Smith, with the Northeast Ohio Sewer District.
The district finished three huge underground sewage holding tunnels in an effort to help old sewage infrastructure and significantly reduce overflow into the lake.
“If it didn’t go out into Lake Erie, it’s very likely the pipes could back up into people’s homes and into their basements,” Smith said.
“Kids are kids. They want to go and swim. They don’t understand the complications of raw sewage being released in the water,” Councilman Matt Zone said.
There is a fourth holding tunnel under construction. Zone hopes it will soon stop Edgewater Beach from being closed after heavy rain.
“That will accept water, overflow water, from the Tremont neighborhood all the way through Ohio City into Detroit-Shoreway,” he said.
Ohio Environmental Council said the state’s huge water issues can only be solved with more federal money.
“Ohio has an estimated $27 billion need for water infrastructure improvements and so putting that on the rate payer’s just not going to get it done,” Pete Bucher said.
The sewer district said Edgewater will remain closed for at least the next three days as it continues to take bacterial readings.
Its plan to solve the sewage overflow problem is in its ninth year and isn’t expected to be completed until 2036.
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