Cleveland, OH,
16:26 PM

No small task to install stormwater detention tanks

When designing a new hospital, it’s easy to get caught up in the “shiny and new” aspects of the building and grounds. It’s exciting to see pretty pictures depicting wide open green space and light filled rooms that offer promises of good health and renewal.

What you don’t hear much about are the more mundane projects, like the installation of a new stormwater detention system, which begins the week of March 4, 2019.

Are you still reading? OK good. 

Admittedly, there’s nothing spellbinding about stormwater detention tanks in and of themselves. The cool factor is how these tanks will help our community.

When fully operational, the tanks will divert hundreds of thousands of gallons of stormwater off MetroHealth's campus every year for decades to come. This will prevent flooding, erosion, street damage and raw sewage from entering the Cuyahoga River and eventually Lake Erie.

That’s right, raw sewage.

Cleveland has century-old combined sewer pipes that carry stormwater and sewage water together, taking it to treatment plants. During heavy rains, these pipes may get overwhelmed. To prevent sewage back-ups in homes, the pipes are emptied into area waterways using a combined sewer overflow system (CSO). The sewage and stormwater then makes its way to Lake Erie.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s (NEORSD) Project Clean Lake will separate sewer and stormwater pipes in the region going forward and remove approximately 98 percent of raw sewage and polluted stormwater from entering waterways.

MetroHealth’s new stormwater detention system will do something similar, as it diverts stormwater from the combined sewer system; here’s how it works:

1) When it rains, the stormwater that runs off our campus surfaces is diverted to the detention system, where mud, muck and other debris are able to settle out before exiting the system and entering the downstream sewer. The settling of debris increases the water quality of the released stormwater to meet Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

2) The water then slowly drains into an 84-inch ODOT storm sewer at a controlled rate to reduce erosion and flooding. This sewer is beneath I-71.

3) The water continues to flow underground through a series of pipes, eventually emptying into the Cuyahoga River.

According to Sarah O’Keeffe, Director of Sustainability, these stormwater detention tanks make MetroHealth more resilient to handle and recover from the increasingly fierce and frequent storms we are experiencing due to climate change.

The series of tanks not only avoids the city’s combined sewers, decreasing the likelihood of sewage going into the lake, but they also slow the rate of stormwater run-off, preventing erosion.

The tanks will also be a welcome relief for staff of the Emergency Department and ambulance bays. This area is prone to flooding due to its location, which is one of the lowest points on campus. The configuration of the new hospital, coupled with the capacity of the tanks, will change this dynamic.

While the tanks are the first step in a “greener” campus, Sarah says there are many other ways we can keep stormwater at bay including the materials we use for sidewalks and parking lots and how, where and what we plant on campus.


About the MetroHealth System

The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.

The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.

As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.

Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.

The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.

For more information, visit