KARI SPIEGELHALTER: "CSOMG"

Place you live:
Ithaca, NY

How you are connected to Pando:
Matt's girlfriend

“Profession”:
Graduate Student studying Landscape Architecture at Cornell University

Last thing you collaborated on:
I'm an occasional contributor to Cyberbotanist, a Tumblr account which celebrates film and other media that respects the forms and diversity of plant life! 

A cool thing you’ve been reading/watching/researching/learning that you would suggest to us:
Cool Tools, a visual encyclopedia of tools and 'catalog of possibilities' covering a huge range of topics from home canning to astronomy.

 


FROM KARI:

About 772 cities in the United States transport wastewater using combined sewer systems. These systems operate by carrying collected rainwater from city streets and domestic sewage in the same pipe. In dry weather, combined sewer systems bring all their wastewater into sewage treatment plants. After treatment, the water is discharged into a local stream, lake, or ocean.

During heavy rainfall, however, the increased amount of water needing to be transported can exceed the space in the pipes and the capacity of the water treatment plant. When this happens, combined sewer systems are designed to dump their contents, a large component of which is raw sewage, into nearby waterways. This is known as a combined sewer overflow event (thus "CSOMG"). Rivers, lakes, and oceans are flushed with pollutants such as oil, grease, pesticides, and raw sewage. These inputs make local waterways unsafe for humans and aquatic wildlife.

Washington, DC, for example, has been diverting nearly three billion gallons of raw sewage a year into its surrounding Rock Creek, Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.  The Anacostia, in recent years, has been likened to a septic tank. About a third of the city is served by a combined sewer system. A couple of years ago, the EPA told the city that it needs to dramatically reduce its number of combined sewer overflow events to protect water quality.  The city is gearing up to spend nearly $3 billion to enact a plan to sink 13 miles of tunnels 100 feet underground to hold water during a heavy rainfall until it can be directed to a treatment plant.

While the city’s engineers prescribe concrete as the solution to the problem, many other industries envision differing solutions. Landscape architects believe a large part of the problem can be solved by incorporating “green infrastucture” into the city – green roofs, rain gardens, and specialized pavement that allow water to soak into the soil instead of flowing into sewers.  Ecologists and conservationists propose large-scale restoration of wetlands to naturally absorb and filter water.

As artists, what do you propose as a solution for the problem of combined sewer overflow events?

Please address all or some of the following concerns:

  • Too much water;
  • Too much pollution;
  • Too much raw sewage.

I invite you to be as imaginative as possible. You can either apply your solution to the city of Washington, DC or not. There are some really cool diagrams and maps of Washington, DC’s sewer system here.