February 19, 2013

LMU to improve sewers, reduce overflow in rivers

Project will take place over next 15 years and cost estimated $70 million

by Mitchell Kirk

— In order to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Logansport Municipal Utilities is planning an overhaul of the city’s sewer system.

The revamp will consist of several projects, all with the goal of reducing the amount of sewer overflows into the Wabash and Eel Rivers during and after storms.

According to a statement released by the LMU Wastewater and Stormwater departments, the plan will be carried out over the next 15 years and will cost an estimated $70 million.

The first phase of the plan began in 2011 and consisted of monitoring, calibrating and reporting to prepare for construction projects slated for later this month. The cost of this initial phase of the plan, including construction, is estimated at more than $13.8 million.

The plan coincides with the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and the Clean Water Act. Because it is being carried out in order to comply with a federally required unfunded mandate, LMU Superintendent Paul Hartman said the money to pay for the project will have to come from increasing stormwater use fees.

Hartman said he did not yet have estimations on how much fees would increase. He said the last time this issue was addressed, in 2009, fee increases were estimated at $45 a month.

Hartman said he is hoping the entire $70 million allocation won’t be necessary to finish the projects. If it is however, he said citizens could likely expect a similar increase in fees.

“If the entire 70 million goes, everyone will be paying a lot more for stormwater than what they can afford,” Hartman said.

Jim Jackson, manager of the Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Department at LMU, said one of the projects he plans to start by the end of the month is installing new interceptor sewers throughout the city. He said these sewers will take on extra water during periods of heavy rain.

Jackson said this project would require digging up streets in order to install the sewer lines.

“It’s a full-blown construction job,” Jackson said. “It’ll definitely tie things up. A lot of noise and dust.”

This project includes four segments. The first begins at the intersection of Linden Avenue and Third Street and then west down Wheatland Avenue to Plum Street. Other segments will take place through 2014.

LMU will also be applying synthetic liners to existing manholes to form a more complete seal, preventing groundwater from getting in and sewer water from getting out.

“A lot of these pipes aren’t really pipes,” Jackson said. “They’re bricks laid in an egg shape. They’re over 100 years old. Joints are breaking down and causing leaks. This forms a positive synthetic seal.”

This project will first take place on manholes along the Wabash River near the Little Turtle walkway and pavilion and along Melbourne Avenue between First and Fourth Streets. Like the interceptor sewers, this project will take place in areas throughout the city through 2014.

Jackson said the manhole project won’t have nearly as much of an impact on streets as the interceptor sewers will.

“We won’t be digging up the street,” Jackson said. “There will be crews working and people set up at manholes. There’s definitely an inconvenience there but not nearly as bad as digging up the street.”

The third project for the initial phase of this plan will be constructing a new equalization basin and pumping station to be located at the intersection of Donahue Street and Cliff Drive.

Jackson said the way the system is now, when the area gets even a small amount of rain, it overloads the current collection system. The waste water plant in turn gets more water coming in that can be processed, forcing the water to back up in sewers and ultimately drain into the Wabash and Eel Rivers.

“Most of this water is stormwater but there is going to be some combined sewer water,” Jackson said. “Even though it’s dilute, it’s still there, so we’re trying to minimize any combined sewer overflows to the rivers.”

Jackson said the equalization basin and pumping station will store excess water and release it in a controlled fashion so the waste water plant doesn’t overflow and force sewer water into the rivers.

The statement released by LMU said residents should expect traffic delays and detours due to construction in the affected areas.

Short interruptions of utility services may occur as well, but Jackson is hoping they’ll be minimal, ranging from temporary water and gas stoppages. He said residents would be notified of interruptions if and when they occur.

These projects are expected to be finished by summer 2014, so the next phase of the plan can begin, which includes a lift station and more interceptor sewers and equalization basins throughout the city.

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