Bored to depth, light at the end of the tunnel marks the end of a journey.

Don’t be sad that it’s over. Smile that it happened, because Lake Erie will be hundreds of millions of gallons cleaner because of it.


Photo credit Ryan Sullivan, @neorsd.

After spending almost a year deep underground — with three miles of finished tunnel behind her and 200 feet of earth above her — Mackenzie emerged from within a wall of shale during the overnight hours of March 21 to mark the successful end of a journey worth celebrating.

The 1,500-ton tunnel boring machine known as Mackenzie in @neorsd circles completed digging the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s 24-foot-diameter Dugway Storage Tunnel, the second of seven large-scale tunnel projects designed to reduce Lake Erie pollution by 4 billion gallons a year upon completion.

“Large complex capital projects are not new for us,” said Director of Engineering and Construction Devona Marshall. “But we see every project as an opportunity to be better. All of us — our employees and our contractors together — see Dugway [Storage Tunnel] as the latest example of that mindset.”

“It’s a testament to the crews on the job, the management team, and our leadership not losing sight of our mission,” she continued. “This is a huge accomplishment for all of them but we know we have years of projects that lay ahead.”

Project Clean Lake is a 25-year program, a combination of system and treatment plant construction and green infrastructure enhancements that scheduled from 2011 through 2036, that will reduce combined sewer overflows and improve water quality in the region. Once online in 2019, the Dugway Storage Tunnel will capture more than 370 million gallons of sewage and stormwater for treatment.

Giant shale slabs collapse as Mackenzie’s cutterhead emerges from the dust.
Bird’s eye view of the tunnel boring machine breaking through the shale and into the concrete-lined receiving shaft 220 feet under Cleveland.
L to R: Roberto Bono, Salini Impregilo Lane; Lou Gottardi, HR Gray; Ryan Sullivan, @neorsd Project Manager; Mike Pipenberg, Mott Macdonald. Photo credit Ryan Sullivan.

The first tunnel in the Project Clean Lake program was also the work of Mackenzie in 2012 and 2013, the Euclid Creek Tunnel. Contractors were able to bring Mackenzie back to life to take on the Dugway project, giving her a new name — Fulvio — when she went back to work in 2017.

But she’ll always be Mackenzie to us. ❤

Her journey continues. She’ll advance further into the receiving shaft in order to complete the concrete tunnel lining behind her, then will be disassembled and raised to the surface piece by enormous piece. Those pieces will be trucked to where her journey began, Bratenahl, the same work site as the Euclid Creek Tunnel’s.



Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH