Marilyn Wall began paying attention to the environment in the 1980s as a systems programmer for a health insurance company.
She read about how Lake Erie was polluted and the fish were dying and thought, “How could society allow this to happen?”
So she began volunteering with the Sierra Club Miami Group, a national grassroots environmental organization.
You may not know Wall’s name, but the decades he has spent monitoring the environment on a volunteer basis have made the area’s air and water cleaner.
Mr. Wall has worked on some of the Sierra Club’s biggest initiatives. Efforts have been made to improve brownfields in Ohio. The U.S. EPA has been petitioned to strip Ohio of its environmental law enforcement authority, citing a failure to enforce environmental laws that have led to major reforms in the past. Efforts were being made to stop pollution at the Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Works in Middletown.
And what she’s best known for is her work to stop sewer flooding in Hamilton County.
“Marilyn Wall is driven to protect what she cannot protect herself from,” said Chris Curran, vice president of the Sierra Club Miami Group. “She is an advocate for the trees, the rivers, hillsides and wildlife of our region. Her success came in quiet moments when no one was paying attention. at the moment you’re watching the latest show.”
Thanks to Wall’s work, Cincinnati and Hamilton County are under a consent decree that is the first to acknowledge that sewage is seeping into people’s basements in violation of the Clean Water Act. Cleaning is in progress.
When Wall first started paying attention to the environment, he quickly realized that he didn’t have to look all the way to Lake Erie to find pollution problems. Mill Creek is so polluted that the rocks along the creek bed have turned the color of dyes dumped by chemical companies.
She supported cleaning up the creek.
By the 1990s, she took up the cause of eliminating odors from metropolitan sewer districts in Greater Cincinnati. And she tackled the issue of combined sewer flooding.
During that time, she held local, state and national Sierra Club positions.
In the 1990s, EPA became interested in wastewater systems. After seven years of negotiations, the EPA filed suit and a consent decree was entered that provides for a cleanup that continues to this day.
Mr. Wall, as a private citizen, is the party who has made clear his intention to litigate and intervene.
“I never gave up,” Wall said.
“Sewage contains pathogens that can kill people,” Wall said. “The risks to people’s health and the environment still remain. I see dimly that politicians have no interest in solving this problem. It’s not going to get better or cheaper. .There are still many broken parts.”
In 2000, Mr. Wall also played an integral role in efforts to clean up air pollution from the Cleveland-Cliffs Middletown Steel Works, now operated under AK Steel. She led a coalition of citizens, Sierra Club members, and steel workers in a massive indictment. Wall said air quality has improved, but in 2017 it started becoming an issue again.
Wall said she knows there’s still work to be done to clean up local air and water quality.
“We have to stop the overflow and repair the equipment,” she said.
And she worries about emerging environmental issues like PFAS, potentially harmful chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that are resistant to heat, oil, dirt, grease, and water.
“I’ve put a lot of effort into solving this problem,” Wall said. “I’d like it to be fixed before I go to the grave, but that’s not going to happen at this rate.”
About Marilyn Wall
Current residence: Glendale.
family: I have been married to Mike Fremont for almost 30 years.
education: Bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Cincinnati.
Profession: I’m a volunteer. Former systems programmer and technical manager at Community Mutual Insurance.
Q&A with Marilyn Wall
What made you want to give back?
“I have benefited from the help of others.”
What needs do you want addressed in your community?
“Racism, equity, education, criminal justice reform, political representation, environmental pollution, and many other areas.”
Who has most influenced or inspired you to care for others?
“This is my aunt Rita Zimmerman.”
Introducing the 2023 Enquirer Woman of the Year
Click on the name to find stories about other 2023 honorees.