CHARLESTOWN – Charlestown City Council is expected to vote at its November 1 meeting on a credit of $ 2.3 million to fund the remaining 70% of the design of the new wastewater treatment plant.
The City Sewerage Council on Thursday approved a resolution asking the council to provide the remaining funds to at least double the size of the plant, as residential and industrial users coming to the River Ridge Commerce Center are expected to grow. The River Ridge Development Authority provided the initial 30% or $ 575,000 of the design costs.
The design phase is expected to take a total of nine to 12 months, and then the city will get around $ 46 million to complete the renovations and new construction needed to support the area. Construction is expected to begin next year and take 18 to 24 months, according to information presented by engineering firm Jacobi Toombs and Lanz (JTL.)
Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges said the town’s facilities have been in need of an upgrade for some time. The facility was built around 20 years ago and has had little maintenance over the years, she said.
“And so we knew we had to take aggressive action,” she said. An inspection in April “basically confirmed what we knew, that every part of this plant has passed its useful life.”
And the city also knew it had to increase its capacity. The results of a JTL study show that once built, River Ridge will require a minimum of 2 million gallons per day just for the Charlestown portion of the business park. Hodges said predominantly residential customers in Charlestown need 1.1 million gallons per day.
But she said even that is a conservative estimate, which is why they designed the new plant to be able to deliver 4 million gallons per day, with the ability to quickly scale to 6 million if needed.
There are approximately 2,500 residents on the Charlestown system, with others on the adjacent Jeffersonville system depending on where they live in the city. Hodges said Charlestown’s aging system hasn’t had a direct negative impact on residents, but it could if it isn’t addressed.
“We were successful in making it work, but the most important thing is that we have old lines in the collection system that need to be replaced so that we don’t have any breaks,” she said. “And the plant itself, if it doesn’t work people will end up not being able to flush the toilet and that’s a big problem.
“We try to move forward, to be proactive and to think long term about our needs. “
The ruptures were part of the problem the Indiana Emergency Management Department discovered during its April inspection. The factory has collection system overflow events that are no longer allowed.
In the report, IDEM said that under the Indiana code, “the licensee is responsible for providing adequate funding and overseeing the sewage treatment plant and collection system in order to ” ensure proper operation, maintenance, management and supervision. It appears that all of the equipment associated with the treatment facility has exceeded its useful life, including some lift stations. At the time of the inspection, many diffusers were not operational. The aeration in the Biolac treatment cell appeared inconsistent.
Part of the improvement will be offset by the recent vote to raise sewer rates for the first time in 16 years. Charlestown City Council voted in August to increase rates by 47% from September, with another increase scheduled for January and potentially another in 2023. That means a residential customer using 4,000 gallons per month who was paying $ 35.38 now pays $ 52.48. This figure will drop to 58.46 at the start of the year.
Hodges said that not only have the rates not gone up for a decade and a half, but the last time they were changed they were actually lowered, “which is detrimental to a utility. We were operating with huge losses for three years before 2020 – hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. “
She said the city was able to be very conservative in 2020 with spending so as not to suffer a loss “but it was not sustainable if we are to make these improvements.”