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MSD, city launch pilot program of green ways to solve sewer overflows

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The city of St. Louis and the Metropolitan Sewer District have launched a pilot program to test environmentally-friendly solutions to sewer overflows.

Under the agreement, MSD will use half of the $3 million to pay for for the demolition of 200 city-owned buildings, mostly on the north side. The agency will then use the remaining funds to build rain gardens, wetlands, and pavement that allows water to seep through on the sites.

The project benefits the city, area residents and MSD, according to agency spokesman Lance LeComb.

"It's a great opportunity to help get some redevelopment costs taken care of up front, help the community, add to the aesthetic value and quality of life for the community, but also to fulfill MSD's primary mission which is to protect the environment," LeComb said.

Though future developers will have to leave the rain garden or wetlands in place, St. Louis Development Corporation deputy executive director Otis Williams said that may make the properties more appealing.

"Right now MSD has a requirement that the builder take into consideration a reduction in the flow into the system," LeComb said. "And so we will basically reduce that cost for the developer," he said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has sued MSD over combined sewer overflows, which happen when sudden storms push sewage into streams and rivers. The agency will cover the pilot project's cost with revenue from its waste water rates.

LeComb said that other sewer agencies have done similar programs, but St. Louis's unique municipal structure made this agreement more difficult to work out.