Smart Sewers next in lineup for Sustainability and Innovation Lecture Series

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Local leaders from the local cup will lay out the importance of social relationships and how they can influence a sustainable community. PHOTO/ALLISSA CORAK
Local leaders from the local cup will lay out the importance of social relationships and how they can influence a sustainable community.


Staff Writer


“So exciting!”

That’s how sustainability professor Krista Bailey feels about the next topic on the list for this semester’s Sustainably and Innovation Lecture Series.

Every Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., local leaders speak to students and community members in room 1001 in Wiekamp Hall.

The series hits on topics all across the board ranging from business relations to environmental impacts and everything in between.

“It’s really to showcase all of the sustainability work that’s happening in our region,” said Bailey.

Bailey points out there’s a lot of work being done in South Bend and in the region, creating opportunities for people to become involved. “It’s a broad array of initiatives from large and small organizations and businesses. So really to see the possibilities and opportunities to do sustainability and how it’s actually happening here,” she said.

Bailey said sustainability is about finding a balance between all of the things that affect how we live.

“Sustainability looks at a balanced approach to our lives and how we do business and how we run business in cities, taking a triple bottom line approach, considering the impacts on people and the economy,” Bailey said. “That’s kind of the three pieces—environment, economy and society and its impacts.”

“So were not saving the trees at the loss of jobs or creating jobs that are detrimental to our health,” she continued.

Wednesday’s select topic zeros in on the balance between technology and the health of the St. Joseph River with the use of Smart Sewers.

According to Bailey, the sewer system in South Bend was originally built to be a combined system, meaning anything that went down the drain ended up in the same place. She said at one point in time, it made sense.

With an ever-growing population and an aging system, problems are to be expected. “It was a really old system,” she said.

As waste water filled the reversed spaces, rain and other runoff would back up the system and overflow into the river, Bailey said. This issue was producing negative environmental impacts.

So why not just update the system?

“Estimated, that costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Like $700 million,” Bailey said. “That’s just South Bend.”

Bailey thinks sustainable efforts and the use of technology is the best choice for the city.

The man responsible for the “smart” design of the city’s sewers is the event’s speaker, Luis Montrestruque.

His designs include sensors to determine when one part is filling up and where to direct the water next. “So they are very smart sewers because they know where to put the water,” Bailey said.

Bailey feels the outcome of the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.

“By not having the overflow, we can actually use our system to capacity,” she said. “It has cut overflow by an incredible amount”

According to Bailey, other cities across the region are adopting the design, hoping to control their waste water as efficiently as South Bend. “So really, we’re a very initiative leader in the field,” she said.

The series also showcases the human side of sustainability.

Business leader Brook Hardy from the Local Cup is speaking on March 29. She said she will be sharing the history of the business and why they focus on maintaining healthy social relationships with the community.

“We realize relationships are the cornerstone of the project and everything branches off from that,” Hardy said.

The small coffee shop in the Near Northwest side of the city uses a pay-it-forward system to reinforce social relationships and bring people together.

Sitting in on Hardy’s lecture next month promises to provide some insight on maintaining healthy community ties.

The five-year running lecture series will wrap up on April 5.

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