4th Warder

News and Notes for Residents of South Euclid's Ward 4 from Councilwoman Jane Goodman.

My Photo
Location: South Euclid, Ohio

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rain Barrels and other stuff

Sorry, I've been missing in action on the blog for a while. Things get pretty busy, and if it's a question of how to spend my time, I'd rather spend it answering constituent phone calls (which can take a while.)

If you saw the Sun Messenger article or the Channel 3 News story about the pending legislation to allow residents to attach rainbarrels to their home downspouts, I'd like to add some info that might not have been included in the stories:

1. SMALL GARAGE? IT'S ALREADY ALLOWED. The South Euclid housing code as it stands today doesn't require that downspouts be connected to the storm sewer on detached garages smaller than 500 square feet, as long as the water coming off the roof doesn't create a nuisance for a neighbor. SO, until we change the code to allow downspouts on houses to feed into a rain barrel, you can still install one (or more) on the garage if it's within the size limitation.

2. OVERFLOW TO STORM SEWER? ALREADY ALLOWED? All rainbarrels can (and probably should), in any case, include an overflow outlet near the top of the barrel that sends extra water into the storm drain once the barrel is full. It seems to me that if you install a rainbarrel with the downspout coming into the top of the barrel and the overflow going out through a continuation of the downspout into the drain, you ought to be legal already, since the code just says "connected to a public storm sewer."

3. SO WHY CHANGE THE CODE? My purpose for introducing the revision to the code is to make the language clearer about allowing people to install rainbarrels to downspouts on homes and larger garages, and also giving them the option to forego the overflow into the storm drain if they would rather direct the overflow to a garden, rain garden or pond, as long as it doesn't pose a flooding problem for the neighbors.

4. WHAT'S THE GOAL HERE? The big thing that rainbarrels, or other means of diverting storm water from storm sewers, do is reduce streambank erosion and stream sedimentation. When large amounts of rain rush into storm drains, the volume and speed of the water can overwhelm the sewer system and, more damaging, when the extra flow runs through streams can erode the banks and put sediment into the water and the lake. That's bad for aquatic life. In some cases, where sewers still have combinded sewer overflows (CSO) the storm water can mix with the sanitary sewer flow (from toilets) and put bacterial and other nasty stuff into the stream and lake...that's why we have so many "no swimming" days at nearby Lake Erie beaches.

The other benefits of catching and storing rainwater include:
- Feeding garden and house plants with rainwater is better than giving them stuff with chlorine and flouride and other chemicals they use to treat tap water;
- You can save a bit of money...tap water isn't free, although people keep saying it is (don't they get a water bill? I do.)
- Rainwater is softer than tap water and great to wash your hair with.

5. WHAT ABOUT MOSQUITOS? They bite. But they can only breed and go through their life cycle in open, standing (and usually shallow, but not always) water...so as long as the barrel is covered, they can't lay eggs. You can also use safe pesticides (or goldfish) to control the larvae. If the overflow goes to a pond, you're already, I assume, doing something to keep the pests under control.

FYI, here's how the South Euclid housing code reads now:


All roofs of every structure shall be maintained weathertight and shall be equipped with gutters and downspouts connected to a public storm sewer. However, this requirement shall be waived for existing appurtenant structures if, in the opinion of the Building Commissioner, the drainage does not cause excessive erosion or water damage or does not create a nuisance on public or private property.


(a) All secondary or appurtenant structures such as sheds, barns, garages, etc. shall either be maintained in good repair and free from health, accident and fire hazards or shall be removed from the premises.

(b) All roofs of every secondary or appurtenant structure shall be equipped with gutters and downspouts connected to a public storm sewer. However, if the roof area served by a specific downspout does not exceed 500 square feet, measured horizontally, and the drainage does not, in the opinion of the Building Commissioner cause excessive erosion or water damage or does not create a nuisance on public or private property, this requirement shall be waived.