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Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District likes the local water: My Cleveland

August 30, 2018

Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District likes the local water: My Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells deals with what flows through your drains. She’s chief executive officer of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

Cleveland creds: Moved to Shaker Heights in 1974

Currently lives: Shaker Heights

Age: 50      

Schooling: Shaker High, bachelor’s in biology with highest honors from Ohio State, master’s in environmental science from Indiana University

Household: Husband and son

Favorite locally owned restaurants: Fire, Edwins, Sasa, Chinato

 

Why should we care about sewage?

Kyle: It’s essential to have clean, abundant water. Our end of the operation at the sewer district is to take the water from homes, businesses and streets, and clean it to proper standards before we put it back into the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie. It’s all part of the cycle.

What area do you serve?

Kyle: Our region is 355 square miles. We have most of Cuyahoga, a portion of Summit, a little of Lorain and Lake. We have about 1 million customers. We have 62 communities.

Most of our streets have curbs and catch basins. Some have gutters. We have some customers with septic tanks and wells.

How does the district work?

Kyle: We have three wasterwater treatment plants: Easterly in Bratenahl, Southerly in Cuyahgoa Heights and Westerly by Edgewater. We also handle the big tunnels. The local communities handle the local sewers, but we provide expertise.

People are working around the clock making sure things keep flowing. It’s complicated work. It’s physically rigorous. It can be dirty. When the sewer district was formed in ’72, we inherited a lot of infrastructure. Pipes and valves break.

We’re governed by the Ohio EPA under the Clean Water Act. We meet or exceed conditions close to 100 percent of the time. There may be some minor issues after a storm.

What’s the deal with combined storm and sewer lines?

Kyle: In older areas, Cleveland and parts of the inner suburbs, you have one pipe for storm and sanitary flow. The idea was rain would clean it out. But it can overflow and flood your basement or the streets or the Cuyahoga, Dugway Brook, Doan Brook, etc.

What can you do about that?

Kyle: We have a 25-year, $3 billion Project Clean Lake started in 2011 to deal with those combined overflows, increasing the capacity to our plants and tunnels.

We brought our Euclid Creek Tunnel and Easterly Tunnel Dewatering Pump Station on-line this summer. We’re starting work on our Westerly storage tunnel near the Soap Box Derby course. Our Doan Valley Tunnel construction is underway through University Circle and will control combined sewer overflows to Doan Brook and Lake Erie.

What else are you working on?

Kyle: We are finishing up a stream restoration project in Mayfield Village along Beechers Brook, a tributary to the Chagrin River.

We are preparing for 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the last Cuyahoga River fire, which was so important to the nation’s environmental movement and the regulations that keep us safe. Carl and Lou Stokes were instrumental in the Clean Water Act.

Now folks are boating and there’s development along the river and the lake. The Metroparks have done a phenomenal job in bringing people to the water.

What are some other district programs?

Kyle: We have a Regional Stormwater Management Program dealing with flooding and erosion. Cleveland’s pretty spread out, with lots of roads. When we develop homes, driveways, parking lots, the water runs off much faster with a lot more force. We’re working with communities to open up creeks in culverts and improve developments.

We provide grants. The West Side Market’s new parking lot is permeable. The Transformer Station has a rain garden...

We’re a partner in the West Creek Watershed. That’s an amazing story of citizen power to pull together little pieces of land to make this wonderful resource.

We have a Good Neighbor Ambassador Program. Our construction can be pushy. We’ve been doing a lot of work in Glenville with tunnels. So our ambassadors shovel snow, rake leaves, help around people’s homes, try to answer questions, make life a little easier. We also do jobs and skills training.

The recent Fairhill-MLK Green Infrastructure Project has native plants and bioretention cells to help water evaporate and flow slowly into the Doan Brook.

Why have you started billing us every month?

Kyle: Cleveland Water is our billing agent in most of our area. They made the decision. The idea, as I understand it, is it’s much easier for folks to deal with a small, repeated bill as opposed to quarterly bills that were pretty high.

Tell us about your interesting parents.

Kyle: Michael “Doc” Dreyfuss was trained as a physician and played viola in a rock band, McKendree Spring. They opened for Elton John and others. Then he was at Wyse Advertising as music director. Do you remember the campaign for the Rain Forest? He did “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” with animal noises.

Elisabeth Dreyfuss developed the Street Law program at Cleveland-Marshall to teach high school kids their rights and find alternative ways to solve disputes. She helped start a magnet high school at MLK in law and public service.

How’d you start your own career?

Kyle: After Ohio State, I was in the Peace Corps in Samoa. You’re surrounded by the Pacific, but clean, potable water is scarce. We all had filters.

After grad school, I worked for the state of Indiana. My husband’s from Illinois. We moved to Cleveland in ’96.

I worked at the Chagrin River Watershed Partners. I came to the sewer district in ’08 and became CEO last year.

Oh, just after the scandal with the district’s lawyer?

Kyle: Yes. Cleveland, like many cities, has had its issues. Those who come after an issue are held to a higher standard, and I’m fine with that. You’re spending public money. There’s no higher calling or more important work.

Since coming back to town, where have you lived?

Kyle: We lived in Tremont, then built in Shaker, in the Ludlow neighborhood, which has a lot of history, where neighbors came together to maintain a balance between African-American and white families.

We have no runoff. We’ve got swales and bioretention and large gutters.

What do you do for fun?

Kyle: I run around Shaker Lakes, and we’ll ride our bikes in the Metroparks while our son runs there. We rode to the new Beach House at Edgewater.

We live near Shaker Square. We’ll walk to restaurants there and walk home.

I love what an easy place Cleveland is to live. Cleveland has the wonders of a big city, and it’s very accessible. People know each other and work together.

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