The Save the Rain program is a comprehensive stormwater management plan intended to reduce pollution to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries. During wet weather events, stormwater flows into the local sewer system, causing heavy flow periods that can overload the system. During times of overload, the system is designed to release combined sanitary flow and stormwater into local waterways (Harbor Brook, Onondaga Creek). This event is known as a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). CSOs significantly reduce water quality in local tributary water bodies including Onondaga Lake.
Since 1998, Onondaga County has been under an Amended Consent Judgment (ACJ) order by the Federal Courts to take steps to reduce and/or eliminate the frequency of CSO events. Under the ACJ, the County has completed dozens of projects related to CSO abatement and reduction. In particular, the County made dramatic improvements at the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro) that serves the City of Syracuse. In addition, the County initiated several sewer separation and other projects to further improve water quality and manage stormwater runoff. To date, the County has completed over 30 “gray” projects to improve sewage conveyance and treatment at a cost of over $300 million. ACJ projects have resulted in great improvements to the water quality of Onondaga Lake.
In January 2008, under the direction of County Executive Joanne M. Mahoney, County officials and interested stakeholders began to investigate alternative options to the use of “gray’ infrastructure to combat stormwater runoff. The County worked with all parties of the ACJ to develop a new environmentally friendly plan that would utilize sustainable solutions. On November 16, 2009, US District Judge Frederick Scullin signed a revised ACJ plan that included an aggressive initiative to develop green infrastructure that will position Onondaga County as a leader in the use of environmentally sustainable solutions to reduce stormwater pollution.
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