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Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, located in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, is a critical piece of infrastructure that plays a crucial role in protecting public health and the environment. As one of the largest wastewater treatment facilities in the state, it serves a population of approximately 1.3 million people in 62 communities in the Greater Cleveland area. The plant is operated by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), a regional agency responsible for managing wastewater and stormwater in Cuyahoga County.

The Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant plays a vital role in the treatment and disposal of wastewater generated by residential, commercial, and industrial activities in the region. The plant processes an average of 90 million gallons of wastewater per day, treating it to a high standard before discharging it back into Lake Erie. The treatment process involves several stages, including preliminary treatment, primary treatment, secondary treatment, and tertiary treatment. These processes remove pollutants, pathogens, and other contaminants from the wastewater, ensuring that it meets strict quality standards set by regulatory agencies.

One of the key features of the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant is its advanced biological nutrient removal (BNR) system, which helps to reduce nutrient pollution in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients can cause harmful algal blooms in water bodies, leading to ecological harm and potential risks to human health. The BNR system at Southerly utilizes a combination of biological and chemical processes to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the wastewater, helping to protect the health of Lake Erie and its surrounding ecosystems.

In addition to its treatment processes, the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant also generates renewable energy through the digestion of wastewater sludge. The plant produces biogas, a byproduct of the digestion process, which is used to power generators and produce electricity. This renewable energy helps to offset the plant’s energy consumption and reduce its carbon footprint, making it a more sustainable and environmentally friendly facility.

The Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant also plays a critical role in protecting public health by preventing the spread of waterborne diseases and pathogens. By treating wastewater to a high standard before discharging it into the environment, the plant helps to ensure that water bodies are safe for recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, and boating. This is particularly important in Lake Erie, a source of drinking water for millions of people in the region.

However, like many wastewater treatment plants, the Southerly facility faces challenges in maintaining and upgrading its infrastructure to meet growing demands and regulatory requirements. Aging equipment, changing regulatory standards, and increasing populations are all factors that can strain the capacity and efficiency of the plant. In recent years, the NEORSD has invested in upgrades and improvements to the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, including the construction of new treatment facilities, installation of advanced technologies, and implementation of innovative practices to optimize operations.

One example of a recent upgrade at the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant is the construction of a new ultraviolet (UV) disinfection system. UV disinfection is a highly effective method for killing pathogens and disinfecting wastewater, without the use of chemicals. The new UV system at Southerly helps to ensure that the treated wastewater meets strict microbial quality standards before it is discharged into Lake Erie.

Another example of an innovative practice at the Southerly facility is the use of digital technologies and data analytics to optimize operations and improve efficiency. By implementing sensors, monitoring devices, and real-time data analysis tools, the plant can better track and control its treatment processes, identify potential issues or bottlenecks, and make informed decisions to improve performance. This digital transformation helps to reduce operating costs, minimize energy consumption, and enhance overall plant reliability.

In conclusion, the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant is a critical infrastructure asset that plays a vital role in protecting public health, safeguarding the environment, and supporting economic development in the Greater Cleveland area. Through its advanced treatment processes, renewable energy generation, and ongoing investments in upgrades and improvements, the plant remains a key player in the region’s efforts to ensure clean water, sustainable resources, and a healthy community for generations to come.


1. Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. (n.d.). Southerly Wastewater Treatment Center. Retrieved from https://www.neorsd.org/our-assets/wastewater-treatment/facilities/southerly-wastewater-treatment-center/

2. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Nutrient Pollution. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/what-nutrient-pollution

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