Connections and community

Unit Process Manage Mitch Falatach walks summer camp students through a tour of our Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant in Cleveland. Photo by Nicole Harvel.

Whether working regionally or locally, protecting water quality is a community benefit we can all support.

Our work as a regional district has relied on collaboration and cooperation with member communities, partners, and customers to achieve our mission for 50 years — the last 10 of which have seen a greater and more creative presence across northeast Ohio.

Here are just a few examples.

By pup-ular demand: PUP campaign brings laughs and action

Image via Adam Bruncak on Twitter.

Across the region lawns are adorned with our friendly Pick Up Poop (PUP) signs that remind passers-by that picking up after their pets is the right thing to do for a cleaner environment. Our “Dogs can’t flush” website and tagline were created to remind people that pet-owners have a unique responsibility protecting our waterways, and the outreach has promoted responsible waste behaviors (and just plain courtesy) in neighborhoods far and wide.

Tens of thousands of PUP signs have reached properties across the region and the country. It’s a popular and impactful example of how small actions can make a big difference.

Stormwater solutions and teamwork

$1.36 billion. That’s the total cost estimated for addressing stormwater problems across our region’s watersheds according to the long-term master-planning effort that wrapped up earlier this year. The problems are many: eroding streams, flooding, and the water quality impacts of stormwater runoff, which is exactly why these detailed reports will be so critical. They will not only guide our work as the regional stormwater manager, but they also provide insight and opportunities for communities to participate in solutions that affect their residents.

Those communities continue to see our team in action in their neighborhoods, tracking issues, responding to calls, inspecting, and maintaining. That presence demonstrates our program’s value and the personal connections we have with them as customers.

Community benefits

Good Neighbor Ambassadors participating in a beach clean-up event. Photo by Nicole Harvel.

Initiatives like our Good Neighbor Ambassador program acknowledge that our work has a lasting and significant impact on our member communities. The burden of construction specifically requires a different level of attention for residents whose homes surround large, noisy, and disruptive construction sites for years at a time.

Through the Ambassadors who represent both our work and the community they work in, our employees are receiving unique career opportunities while residents receive a direct personal connection with the utility serving them.

Member community infrastructure program funds local solutions

Member Community Infrastructure Program impact summary 2017–2021

In 2017, we began what we call MCIP, the Member Community Infrastructure Program, designating District funds to assist member communities’ sewer projects addressing water quality and quantity issues, like projects that fix flooded basements, aging local sewers and failing home septic systems.

Since then, our program has invested more than $47 million towards 72 publicly owned sewer improvement projects and leveraged an additional $68 million in member community infrastructure investments through July of this year. Plus, another 18 projects were recently approved in August for 2023. That alignment of local and regional investment results in better served customers and a healthier environment.

Meeting customers where they are

Our staff help customers find utility bill relief at our Utility Assistance Resource Fairs. Photo by Nicole Harvel.

From social media to community meetings, our outreach to help customers better understand the services they depend on has taken on a more personal approach.

Our annual Clean Water Fest, carnival-like celebration of education, has welcomed thousands of guests multiple times in recent years, a sign of the value of real engagement. Public tours and programs like Sewer University (or SewerU) have given residents a chance to see our work and place themselves within its past, present, and future.

Recognizing the needs of our customers, we’ve taken our customer service efforts on the road and into communities where assistance is needed most. Our Utility Assistance Resource Fairs have connected customers with programs and opportunities that they may not have realized were available to help. And hundreds of customers will start to see savings on their utility bills because of it.

Even the shifting trends of social media have provided us a unique opportunity to better relate people’s interests to infrastructure, and more importantly make our work more relevant and responsive to them.

The approach is always changing, but our work has been about community connections for the last 50 years. That will endure for another 50 as we seek new and ongoing connections with both creativity and impact.

Learn more about our #50YearStory.

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