Water Equity Clearinghouse

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Northeast Ohio

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is the largest wastewater treatment provider in Ohio, serving one million residents and treating 90 billion gallons of wastewater a year. The Sewer District is attentive to public health and environmental challenges and thus focuses on reducing Combined Sewer Overflows, pre-treating industrial effluent, and investing in infrastructure and programs to clean stormwater runoff. The District also has the Project Clean Lake initiative which projects to reduce the total volume of raw sewage discharges by four billion gallons by 2036.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

NEORSD has a number of programs that focus on their lower-income customers, residents, and businesses. The Good Neighbor Ambassador program creates jobs, connects lower-income neighborhood residents to NEORSD, and beautifies residential areas. The program arose out of a question from residents in neighborhoods undergoing construction projects: Why aren’t our residents being employed by these projects? While union laws prevent the NEORSD from dictating hiring practices on construction projects, there was a need for better communication between residents and the Sewer District. The Ambassadors help keep residents up-to-date on what is happening in their neighborhood, distribute informational materials, answer questions, and address concerns about the Sewer District’s construction projects. In addition, Ambassadors help revitalize neighborhoods through lawncare, trash cleanups, and installing green infrastructure features like raingardens. This approach not only creates career opportunities in underemployed areas, but it also gives communities an outlet for their comments and questions.

NEORSD goes even further in working extensively with the local community through its Business Opportunity Program, which provides procurement opportunities to minority-owned, women-owned, and small businesses. Extending bids to disadvantaged businesses has a strongly positive economic impact in areas where projects are occurring, thus contributing to the overall economic health and vitality of the region.

This initiative was born out of the realization that race- and gender-based discrimination is present in the District’s contracting marketplace, a conclusion from a study by NERA Economic Consulting. In 2009, the District engaged the firm to perform a Disparity Study to determine to what extent race- and gender-based discrimination exists in the District’s contracting practices. The commitment to fact finding and research based initiatives is a component that makes NEORSD’s work effective and beneficial to the greater Northeast Ohio community.

NEORSD also has a number of cost-saving programs that make water services affordable to vulnerable populations. Their Homestead program is a 40 percent bill reduction assistance program that benefits the elderly and people with disabilities. A rate reduction of 40 percent is also available to customers below 200 percent of the poverty level. NEORSD does not neglect customers with unexpected and destabilizing life events, such as sudden medical expenses, job loss, separation, or divorce. Their crisis assistance program offers financial assistance of 50 percent of a customer’s sewer balance, up to $300, to ease the difficulty of such situations.