Pharos-Tribune

July 29, 2013

LMU: other uses for shut down water plant

Facility to remain open for labs, records, others

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport Municipal Utilities is planning to continue using its water treatment facility for purposes other than treating water after conditions outlined in a federally-unfunded mandate were deemed too expensive for the facility to take on.

Jim Jackson, manager of the water, wastewater and stormwater department at LMU said the water treatment plant at Riverside Park had been converting water from the Eel River into drinking water since 1954 and the cost to bring the plant into compliance with stricter federal regulations was estimated to be between $6 million and $8 million.

LMU decided to forego the investment and make a full switch to its groundwater system, which consists of a well field with five wells west of town.

”We’re basically converting from river water, which is full of contaminants and can be very difficult to treat, to groundwater, which is much easier and cheaper,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the wells have been used as an accompaniment to the city’s former river water system since 1991.

“The challenge has been getting the water where we need it when we need it efficiently,” he said. “We’re continuing to make improvements in that area and it’s going to be a gradual process.”

The changes at the plant led to the loss of two full-time positions, Jackson said.

While the plant no longer treats water, LMU has no plans to shut down the facility, as it also holds laboratories, communications services and storage for records.

Jackson said by using the plant’s 500,000-gallon tank as a reservoir for already treated water, he can use the facility as a booster pumping system to apply additional pressure and water to the lines when needed and as a place to store water for bulk water sales.

Although the figures often depict a break-even scenario for bulk water sales, Jackson said there aren’t any other options for him to utilize. If he were to shut it down, contractors, businesses and homeowners and various city departments would go elsewhere for bulk water, he said.

Jackson said it is likely LMU will expand its groundwater capabilities by adding other wells in the future.

”I couldn’t imagine anyone ever going back to treating river water,” he said.

Discontinuing the treatment of river water is not the only federally-unfunded mandate LMU is dealing with. Earlier this spring, it began the first phase of what is expected to be a 15-year sewer overhaul project estimated to cost about $70 million.

The projects are designed to align the city’s stormwater and sewer system with the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and the Clean Water Act.

While LMU officials have already found ways to cut the first phase of the project by about $5 million, they’re saying a large increase in stormwater fees will still be required to finish the job.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.