Cincinnati Zoo helps reduce sewer overflow into the Ohio River

Cincinnati Zoo helps reduce sewer overflow in Hamilton County
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 11:38 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A new sustainability project is underway at the Cincinnati Zoo that will create a positive environmental impact.

The project recycles rainwater that will be used inside the zoo to help prevent sewage in Hamilton County from overflowing the Ohio River and even into peoples’ homes.

“This is all about reducing our footprint on the earth, helping our neighbors and the local natural resources and saving some money at the same time,” Cincinnati Zoo Vice President of Facilities, Planning and Sustainability Mark Fischer explained.

Underneath the five-acre site that will eventually become the Elephant Trek Exhibit is where the rain harvesting system will be constructed. This will help the zoo accomplish its net zero water initiative.

“One hundred percent of the rain that hits our zoo, we collect, do not let it get in the combined sewer system, and we clean it up and reuse it for our exhibits,” Fischer explained.

In addition, the rain harvesting system is expected to capture roughly 300 million gallons of rainfall each year, keeping excess water away from the county’s sewers, he added.

“Combined sewer overflow into the Ohio River you could argue is the biggest environmental challenge we have in Hamilton County. This will help solve that problem,” Fischer said.

But it is not just about creating a cleaner river. Fischer says when sewers overflow the sewage floods into peoples’ homes.

“Specifically, that happens even more so in underserved communities. So, for us keeping this rainwater out of the systems helps keep sewage out of our neighbors’ basements here in Avondale,” he explained.

The rainwater will collect inside a one million-gallon water tank constructed with 15,000-pound chunks of concrete that fit together like puzzle pieces. Once completed, the water will then filtrate through the water treatment system before coming in contact with almost every animal in the zoo.

“This is best-in-class water. So, in other words, this water will be cleaner than city tap water. So, it’s best in class water because there’s nothing in it,” Fischer says.

The new rain tanks will cost about $2 million, but each year it will save the zoo around $250,000 to $300,000 on its water and sewer bill.

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