The River Fire That Sparked It All: NACWA Joins Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), River Network in Celebrating 50 Years of Clean Water Progress

Just this past Saturday, June 22, marked the 50th anniversary of the now famous Cuyahoga River fire. Though it was not the first time the river was ablaze, the 1969 fire proved to be a turning point for water quality in the United States and a major impetus for today’s Clean Water Act. The occasion was celebrated with multiple events in Cleveland, including River Network’s annual River Rally, which gathers hundreds of clean water advocates from around the country. The event drew more than 300 attendees, with water affordability being a common theme throughout the meeting. Additional topics of discussion included green infrastructure, emerging contaminants such as PFAS, and resiliency.

NACWA hosted a workshop, The New Frontier of Water Affordability: Addressing Affordability Issues Using an Updated Methodology, highlighting the water sector’s recent water affordability report. The workshop was moderated by Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, NACWA Board Member and Chief Executive Officer for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) and featured John Mastracchio with Raftelis, Steve Via from American Water Works Association, and Matt Bond with KC Water. River Rally participants, who are generally not familiar with the water sector’s perspective, were engaged and had thoughtful questions for the panel. NACWA and the River Network signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 to encourage more engagement among the clean water sector and the riverkeeper and other watershed groups that participate in the River Network.

The weekend of festivities continued with the opening of NEORSD’s new pump station along the Cuyahoga River, followed by the River Reborn press event and celebration. In the presence of Cleveland’s Mayor, various U.S. and Ohio congressional representatives, and state leaders, a plaque was unveiled to celebrate the past strides leading to the River’s rebirth and current measures to further reduce the amount of pollution discharging into the Cuyahoga.

We are thankful to our colleagues at River Network for the opportunity to share our perspective on affordability and for hosting such an important event. If members have questions or would like to view the workshop’s presentations, please contact Emily Remmel.