Letters went out last week from the Columbus Department of Public Utilities advising about 3,000 Clintonville residents that the Blueprint Columbus pilot project is about to enter a new phase.

Letters went out last week from the Columbus Department of Public Utilities advising about 3,000 Clintonville residents that the Blueprint Columbus pilot project is about to enter a new phase.

"The point of the letter is to give people notice that we're making the determination that we need to apply Blueprint in this area," said Susan E. Ashbrook, assistant director of the department. "It's just a necessary step for us to get moving on Blueprint."

Blueprint Columbus, which was approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in December 2015, is a series of approaches designed to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows. The Ohio EPA issued an order making the move mandatory.

"The issue is really too much water getting into the sanitary sewers," Ashbrook said. "This is a way for us to get in and solve the problem."

Eventually, she added, crews will come onto private property in the pilot project area, where overflows drain into Adena Brook and Whetstone Park, to fix "laterals," the lines that run to homes from sewer lines, as well as fixing gutters so they don't flood basements.

"Since most of the water is coming into the sanitary sewer from residential areas, it is necessary to address the homes in the area to achieve the reductions we will need," the Sept. 1 letter from the city states. "To achieve this goal we will need to improve the line which carries your home sewage to the city sewer, known as the lateral. In most cases, the lateral may be rehabilitated with minimal disruption to your property and without excavating the line."

That work probably won't start until sometime in 2018, Ashbrook said.

More immediately, crews will work on public property, installing rain gardens and pervious pavement "to make sure that the increased rain water will not cause any additional local flooding and to improve water quality," according to the letter.

"I'm very excited by the project," said Rob Wood, former Clintonville Area Commission District 1 representative and a member of the advisory panel for Blueprint Columbus. "The Blueprint concept in general is progressive in action. We're taking the lead in the nation with this kind of concept."

The Public Utilities letters include a "draft designation order," basically a form that would permit Blueprint workers to come onto private property. Ashbrook and Wood both said they doubted many would decline.

The repairs to laterals, the assistant director said, normally would be a cost shouldered by the homeowner.

"We work very hard to make this an acceptable and even a desirable project," Ashbrook said. "The vast majority of feedback we've gotten is very positive. When we're done, they'll basically have a brand-new plastic lateral that they won't have to worry about breaking or cracking for decades. In addition to taking care of the problem, we're helping the property owners."

"It sounds like the city has done a good job communicating with the neighborhood," Wood said.

CAC Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt isn't so certain these efforts, however involved they have been, have succeeded.

"There are people, when I sent out the notice (regarding the letters), who had never heard of it," Wetherholt said. " 'Why are we just finding out about it now?' they're asking. It's just going to have to be maybe word of mouth that some people who know about it ... start talking to neighbors."

Some infrastructure work in the public right of way and in parks will start later this year, Ashbrook said, but the big push for that part of the project will take place in 2017.

"We're going to have a very massive outreach in keeping people aware of where the construction is going to be," she said. "Next year is really the big year for green infrastructure.

Eventually, the pilot project will lead to Blueprint Columbus efforts in other parts of the city.

"We are planning on taking this to other areas, 20 to be exact, including two more areas in Clintonville," Ashbrook said. "It's almost exclusively areas that we built before the '60s."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1