The flush is just the beginning.

Why water down the drain is the start of a journey few see and even fewer understand.

In this #BehindTheBill series, we take a closer look at the work made possible by your monthly or quarterly NEORSD bill.

he phrase “money down the drain” conveys a sense of wastefulness and loss. It’s not something we want customers to feel about the sewer bills they pay, which could be considered actual money supporting the actual work of actual drains.

But the truth is: your sewer bill is an investment in drains, and sewers, and healthy streams, and the people, processes, and projects that make it all possible.

When you flush a toilet or run your sink or even see a street drain collecting water in your neighborhood, it takes work to test and treat that water right so it can get back to the environment safely.

Last year, our operating expenses topped a tight $126 million, ensuring uninterrupted service during a pandemic. And it’s work we are proud to do. About half of those costs — $58 million — were for plant operations and maintenance, core services protecting public health and our water resources.

But of the million-plus residents we serve, very few have ever set foot inside one of our treatment plants. Most have no idea the complexity, expanse, or value of the system it takes to clean the water we all need.

Let’s see if we can change that.

From flush to flow, where the water goes

Three treatment plants across our service area treat hundreds of millions of gallons daily.

“Some customers aren’t aware of the complexity,” said Deputy Director of Operations & Maintenance Tracey Phelps about his experience explaining the process to the public. “I always start with the importance of why wastewater is treated: To protect the environment and public health.”

While each plant is different, we can look more closely at just one to see how sewage coming into the process is transformed into clean water for the Cuyahoga River in about a day’s time.

Kelly, Todd, and Armand from our Southerly team walk us from one side of the plant to the other to show us how and where the water goes after the flush.

Missed our past #BehindTheBill features?

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