Why do sewer overflows occur and why are they a concern?

Each year, during heavy rainfalls about 1.5 billion gallons of raw sewage escapes the local sewer systems, which can lead to dirty rivers and streams, backed-up basements and flooded communities. Sewer overflows can occur for several reasons:

  • Older, more urban parts of Northern Kentucky, such as Covington and Newport, have a combined sewer system that carries both wastewater and storm water in the same pipe.
  • During heavy rainfall, the system fills up with too much water and overflows into local waterways. While this reduces the likelihood of sewage backing up into buildings or flooding local streets, it’s harmful to the environment.
  • When the sewer system was first built, overflows were uncommon because there was lots of natural land to soak up the rain. But as Northern Kentucky developed, much of that land was paved over and now more storm water enters the sewer system and causes overflows.
  • Overflows can also occur in newer areas of Northern Kentucky, where wastewater and storm water are carried in different pipes. This happens less frequently, and is often caused by blockages or broken pipes.

These overflows are a concern because they can threaten public health, safety and the environment.

Show All Answers

1. What is Clean H2O40?
2. What is a consent decree?
3. Why do sewer overflows occur and why are they a concern?
4. What is a sanitary sewer overflow?
5. What is a combined sewer overflow?
6. Is SD1 required to eliminate sewer overflows?
7. Do other cities experience sewer overflows?
8. How much will my rates go up because of the Clean H2O40 program?
9. How can I help improve water quality?