Akron Holds Contest to Name TBM

Akron “Akron Waterways Renewed!,” the City of Akron’s  billion-dollar initiative to address the city’s combined sewer overflows, is accepting nominations from Akron residents to name the giant TBM that will excavate a 27-ft diameter, mile-long tunnel under downtown Akron.

The project includes two large tunnels, ten storage basins, seven sewer separation projects (four of which have been completed), and improvements to the Water Reclamation Facility.

The largest individual project will be the construction of a $300 million 6,000-ft long Canal Interceptor Tunnel between the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath and Exchange Street.

The initiative is the largest single investment in City infrastructure in Akron’s 189-year history, has the potential to restore Akron waterways, the health of its environment, and the protection of its water to a level not seen in six generations.

According to tunneling tradition, a TBM cannot start work until it is given a name. This tradition is carried out throughout the world and a TBM is generally named after a lady as a sign of good luck for the project ahead.

For example, Seattle names its TBM “Bertha;” Washington, D.C., named its machines “Lady Bird,” “Nannie” and “Lucy,” after  the first dean of women at Howard University; Cleveland’s TBM is “Mackenzie;” in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Tunnel Boring Machine was named “Martina;” and in London, the TBM’s were Elizabeth and Victoria, with the Thames Tunnel being dug by machines named Mary and Sophia.

“This is the largest construction project in Akron history, and I hope people will come up with a name that is meaningful and that will honor someone with significant ties or who has made significant contributions to Akron,” said Akron Mayor Jeff Fusco.

The announcement of the contest took place at the Blue Heron Homecoming, at Akron’s Water Reclamation facility June 17, where a mock-up of the 30-ft tunnel was installed so that people could see how big the tunneling operation will be.

The event featured more than 20 environmental hands-on exhibits and plant tours for families, in addition to welcoming back the flock of great blue herons that have populated the heronry at the sewage treatment facility since 1990.

Since 1987, Akron has spent over $300 million to improve its sewer system, including millions of dollars on engineering studies of the sewer system and the receiving streams to meet EPA requirements, including upgrades to Akron’s wastewater treatment plant, the Akron Water Reclamation Facility in the Cuyahoga Valley.

Akron’s current consent decree requires a $1.4 billion dollar investment in the city’s environmental future by remediating its combined sewer overflows. About 20% of Akron’s sewers were designed to carry both storm water and sanitary wastes in one pipe, and during a rain event, when the storm water contribution exceeds the capacity of the sewers, sewage overflows to streams or rivers.

Akron’s long-term control plan will improve the system by attempting to achieve zero untreated overflows in the typical year, improving water quality.

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