Hundreds of Indiana municipalities applied for millions of dollars of state and federal money to fund much-needed water infrastructure projects, but only a few made the first cut.
The Indiana Finance Authority selected 22 municipalities out of more than 500 that applied to receive $63 million in grants from the first round of State Water Infrastructure Fund program funding.
The program was established to allocate $100 million of federal Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds and $50 million in state-appropriated funds. The IFA can also distribute forgivable loans from the State Revolving Fund Loan Program.
A state audit found that many service lines in Indiana are nearing or are already at the end of their service life and need to be replaced. The audit also found that even after water facilities are built or expanded, $815 million will be needed annually to maintain the utilities.
Community systems will also face added stress from changes in the way rain falls. Climate change, caused by heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases, has increased the intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall events.
That means that here in Indiana, and most of the country, more rain is falling every year. But instead of falling evenly over the seasons, rain is falling in heavy events that dump massive amounts of rain in a short period of time.
If climate change continues to worsen, a larger percentage of precipitation could fall in one-day heavy events.
Communities that applied for SWIF grants said those heavier rain events have increased wear and tear on water systems and increased the amount of sewer overflows.
A look at the applications selected for the $63,285,000 in funding reveals the dire situations faced by some Hoosier communities, who face major water infrastructure challenges that affect human health and the environment while having few means to fund costly projects themselves.
ADAMS COUNTY REGIONAL SEWER DISTRICT
$5 million grant awarded for sanitary sewer improvements
The project involves the installation of municipal sanitary sewers in five areas where the residents of six townships in Decatur and Berne are currently served by failing, on-site septic systems.
The Adams County RSD will contribute $7.1 million to the project, which will connect new sewers to the city of Decatur’s sewer system.
Decatur’s sanitary sewer system has had issues with combined sewer overflows into St. Mary’s River and is currently bound by an agreement with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to upgrade its sewer system in multiple phases until 2028.
The city also exceeded the amount of E. coli and ammonia levels in water after more than 8 inches of rain fell in 2019, keeping the river above flood stage for 10 continuous days.
Decatur city officials said the city purchased a sewer camera truck to investigate the condition of the sewer system, using it to view 15,000 feet of sewer. The city also cleaned 17,500 feet of sewer lines, rehabilitated 21 manholes, replaced 1,300 feet of main and installed 500 feet of new storm sewers, all for additional cost.
Construction on the project is expected to begin June 2022 and be completed by June 2023.
TOWN OF ARCADIA
$2.2 million grant awarded for wastewater and stormwater improvements
Officials from Arcadia, a town with a population of 1,600, said in their application that the growth potential of the northern Hamilton County community was “severely limited by its wastewater and stormwater issues.”
The town said that, during heavy rain events, water enters the town’s pump station and overwhelms its capacity, sending excess water and sewage into an unnamed tributary that connects to Cicero Creek, a body of water impaired by E. coli bacteria and multiple pollutants.
The events also cause raw sewage to back up into settling tanks adjacent to the laboratory and control room at the facility.
“During moderate to heavy storm events, raw wastewater overtops the weir wall and discharges directly to Cicero Creek. The overflow rate has been witnessed to be as high as several millions of gallons per day. In another part of town, a sanitary sewer that conveys the water treatment plant backwash and raw wastewater from two homes discharges to a county drain which then discharges to Cicero Creek,” the town wrote in its application.
The town said its wastewater treatment plant also needs equalization or capacity improvements to process components to handle the additional flow. It also needs funds to address several locations in the sanitary sewer collection system where storm sewers directly connect and discharge to the sanitary sewer, resulting in excessive flow into the plant.
The connection deficiencies have led to multiple sewer ban early warnings, a notification from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that sewers are at 90% capacity. The early warning could result in IDEM banning the town from performing construction on its sewer infrastructure until the potential overflow issue is addressed.
The town will contribute almost $3 million to the project, which is expected to begin June 2022 and be completed by June 2023.
TOWN OF ATLANTA
$800,000 for stormwater improvements
The town of Atlanta has a population of 795, but faces a daunting challenge to improve its capacity to handle the stormwater that will eventually make its way to Cicero Creek.
Town officials laid out its multiple problems in their application letter.
“There is currently no known or adequate storm drainage system in the town. The town does not have an overall comprehensive storm water management plan in place. Inlets and sewers are needed in some areas and regrading is needed in others to route storm flow to an appropriate outlet,” they wrote. “Areas in town have some structure but do not meet current design standards.”
The town reported taking in an average of 200% more raw, untreated wastewater into its wastewater treatment facility than it was designed to take in between 2017 and 2020.
IDEM issued the town its fifth sewer ban early warning notice in May 2021. The town’s utility superintendent/council president appealed the notice, saying the town planned on making improvements to its sewer plant, including sewer and manhole lining and 4,000 feet of sewer replacements with 28 manholes.
“The projected cost of this project is $2,900,000. This is a staggering amount of money for a community of only 350 customers. We have already spent more than that over the last nine years addressing storm and wastewater issues,” Andy Emmert wrote to IDEM. “We have worked extremely hard over 14 years and have been in an almost constant state of planning or construction on these projects. We are working to the best of our ability to complete this project and address our final remaining issues.”
The town will contribute $1.6 million to the project, which is expected to begin May 2022 and be completed by May 2023.
TOWN OF CLARKSVILLE
$5 million for Broadway District stormwater improvements
The town of Clarksville received a $5 million grant to decrease flooding in its Broadway District, the part of town that contains the town’s mall, cinema, several car dealerships, restaurants and various retail stores.
According to town officials, the district floods even during relatively minor rain events.
“Water frequently floods roadways, leading to dangerous situations, and the need to close down several intersections for safety reasons,” the town wrote in its application.
The town commissioned an engineering study of the area, which found that a large amount of the town’s stormwater infrastructure flooded regularly.
The SWIF grant will help expand the basin that collects rainwater near the River Falls Mall, divert the route of existing public storm sewer lateral pipes and increase the size of storm sewer pipes.
The town will contribute $8.3 million to the project, which is expected to begin May 2022 and be completed by May 2023.
$1.8 million for a wastewater system for the towns of Foraker, Southwest
Elkhart County requested grant funding to help establish a wastewater system for two small communities, Foraker and Southwest. The system would connect to the neighboring town of Wakarusa’s water system.
The county said the communities have individual onsite septic systems, most of which are believed to be more than 40 years old, that are in various stages of failure. Water testing has found the presence of E. coli, an indicator of untreated or undertreated sewage that could cause a public health risk.
“Developing a community-based, regional solution will benefit the environment and will improve the quality of life for the residents of these communities,” the county wrote.
The county will contribute $2 million to the project, which is expected to begin May 2022 and be completed by May 2023.
FORT WAYNE/ALLEN COUNTY
$5million to reduce combined sewer overflows into the St. Mary’s, Maumee and St. Joseph Rivers
The funding will help Fort Wayne comply with a consent decree it signed with the federal government and the state to address alleged violations of the Clean Water Act involving combined sewer overflows into nearby waterways.
The city has experienced sewer overflows on an almost monthly basis, some due to blockages in sewer lines and others due to heavy rain events.
In one instance, the city reported experiencing 1.58 inches of rainfall over a 4-hour period that pushed its wastewater treatment plant flow to handle nearly 17 million gallons of stormwater more per day than it was designed to handle.
The city has already received $135 million in loans from the State Revolving Fund Loan Program for other upgrades.
$5 million for expansion of city’s wastewater treatment plant
The city of Huntingburg, in Dubois County, will use the grant to expand the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The plant was originally built in 1957 and has been updated several times over the decades, but is currently operating in “overloaded conditions.”
The city said the plant is not able to treat the monthly average wastewater flow and cannot keep up with demands to treat water for multiple criteria, including ammonia and phosphorus.
“If the [plant] continues to operate above capacity for both flows and loadings, there is the possibility of effluent permit violations which could lead to adverse effects to human health and the environment. Action is required to avoid potential discharge of untreated sewage into the receiving stream,” the city wrote.
Huntingburg entered into an agreement with IDEM in 2019 to fix several violations, including several monitoring and reporting requirements and allowing the treatment plant to be supervised by an unlicensed operator for several months in 2018. The city had to create a compliance plan and was assessed a $4,800 penalty. The city appealed, and the penalty was later reduced.
The grant will potentially help two communities, as the city has made an agreement with the town of Holland to accept its wastewater once Huntingburg’s treatment plant capacity has increased.
Holland is currently under an early warning sewer ban for chronic hydraulic overloading at its wastewater treatment plant.
The county will contribute $17.7 million to the project, which is expected to begin April 2022 and be completed by October 2023.
LAGRANGE COUNTY REGIONAL UTILITY DISTRICT
$5 million to provide wastewater service to Twin Lakes, Still Lake and West Pigeon Lake and expand existing treatment plant
The grant would allow the LaGrange County Regional Utility District to provide wastewater services to residents in Twin Lakes, Still Lake, West Pigeon Lake and various homes along State Road 120.
The district said the expansion would allow it to serve residents who currently have individual on-site septic systems for wastewater treatment and disposal. County surveyors have found that soil types in the area have “severe limitations” that limit their use for a septic disposal field.
“Many of the septic systems are old and failing. Failing septic systems are allowing untreated sewage to discharge to groundwater and surrounding lakes and rivers, thus resulting in the potential for serious health and safety issues,” the county wrote.
“The residents within the proposed service areas rely on private wells for drinking water. Most of the lots around the service area are small and do not allow for proper separation between the septic systems and the groundwater wells. If the current septic systems are not replaced the water quality will continue to get worse, resulting in potential of private water wells becoming contaminated.”
The project would benefit more than 900 residents, according to district estimates.
The district will contribute $6.8 million to the project, which is expected to begin April 2022 and be completed by Sept. 2023.
$2 million grant for water main replacement and collection system improvements
The city of Lawrence said it will use the grant to replace five water mains that have experienced the highest number of breaks, leaks and customer complaints.
The city will also use the grants to address sanitary sewer overflow issues in its collection system.
The city entered into an agreement with IDEM after the agency found that more than 50,000 gallons of sewage overflowed from a manhole next to Indian Creek that was under repair. IDEM said the city failed to notify it within two hours of discovery, as is required by state law.
“Lawrence has performed annual improvements to the system, but still experiences sewer overflows. In July of 2021, Lawrence received a Notice of Potential Violation from the EPA. That notice instructed Lawrence to eliminate sewer overflows through a corrective action plan, with a schedule of eliminating overflows in the next two years,” the city wrote.
The city has had at least five sewer system overflows this year, most due to heavy rain overwhelming the city’s sewer system.
The city will contribute an additional $2, million to the project, which is expected to begin April 2022 and be completed by Dec. 2023.
MECCA/INDIANA AMERICAN WATER
$950,000 for Mecca pressure zone improvements
The grant will be used to fund improvements to increase pressure to residents living in Mecca.
This year alone, Indiana American Water has issued several boil water notices for dozens of its drinking water customers due to pump failures, electrical maintenance issues, main breaks and pressure drops.
The company will contribute an additional $2.8 million to the project, which is expected to begin April 2022 and be completed by late Aug. 2023.
$3 million for drinking water and fire suppression at Tempur Sealy facility
Montgomery County officials said the grant would cover the next phase of an infrastructure expansion in a 22-square-mile infrastructure development zone east of Crawfordsville.
The county extended wastewater and drinking water infrastructure in the area in 2018, eliminating the need for 60 failing industrial and residential septic tanks.
Tempur Sealy, the world’s largest bedding manufacturer, selected the area as the future home of a manufacturing facility that will ultimately create 300 full-time jobs. The county said Tempur Sealy was the first business attracted to the unincorporated area of Montgomery County in over 10 years.
County officials believe the grant will help stimulate investment in the county.
“Alongside the county’s $10 million in co-funding, partnering with IFA on this phase would allow the county to meet Tempur Sealy’s imminent water needs while also boosting our ability to attract other employers, capital investment and residents; positively contributing to the health of the County and region; and maintaining capacity to invest in future development opportunities,” the county wrote in its application.
The county will contribute an additional $10.5 million to the project, which is expected to begin Feb. 2022 and be completed by late Aug. 2022.
TOWN OF NASHVILLE
$2 million grant for treatment capacity improvements, new lift station and water main
The town of Nashville will use the grant to fund several wastewater improvements, including wastewater treatment plant capacity, a new lift station and upgrades to force main pipes and manholes.
In early 2019, IDEM found the city reported a sewer overflow but did not report multiple other overflows, a violation of its operational permits. The city also did not have a preventive maintenance program for the sanitary sewer system, had improper sludge and solids disposal procedures and “inadequate operating staff to ensure compliance.”
The city entered into an agreement with IDEM to correct its deficiencies and pay a $4,700 penalty.
Despite the agreement, the town continued to experience 14 sewer overflows between March 2020 and March 2021.
The grant will help alleviate capacity at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
The town will contribute an additional $4.6 million to the project, but the design and construction dates are unclear.
POSEY COUNTY REGIONAL SEWER DISTRICT
$5 million for the construction of a wastewater treatment plant to serve Wadesville, Blairsville
The Posey County Regional Sewer District will use the grant to build a wastewater treatment facility for residents in Wadesville and Blairsville, which currently do not have any form of wastewater treatment.
In an environmental assessment for the project, the Posey County Health Department spoke about the area’s situation.
“The septic situation in Wadesville and Blairsville is very critical. There are a large number of failing septic systems. Many of the lots are small and the soils are not very good. This restricts the options available for repairs. South Terrace School, which is in Blairsville, has septic leaching to the surface in the ball diamond. This creates a very serious problem. Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done using a conventional system. The area needs some kind of central sewage system,” the department said.
The district will build a facility that can be upgraded as demand increases and will discharge into nearby Big Creek.
The district will contribute an additional $11.4 million to the project, which is expected to begin construction later this year.
$4 million for drinking water and wastewater improvements
The city of Scottsburg will use the grant money to double the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant and improve peak capacity to receive 10 times what it does during dry weather.
“During rain events, the city experiences a large volume of sanitary overflows and sewage back-ups into homes,” the city said in its application. “During the rain events the past few weeks, the city received numerous phone calls of sewage not only overflowing onto the ground, but actually overflowing into people’s homes. This is an emergency condition.”
IDEM said it received complaints of overflows within the Rosewood Mobile Home Park in the city, and Scottsburg wastewater plant personnel sealed the manhole to eliminate the overflow point. The action worked, but the system backed up and overflowed from different sections within the collection system.
The city entered into an agreement with IDEM after the agency found multiple deficiencies in its monitoring and excessive inflow and infiltration in the city’s wastewater treatment plant, resulting in multiple overloads.
The district will contribute an additional $15 million to the project, which could begin construction this year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
TOWN OF SPURGEON
$1.1 million for a collection system and regionalization with Lynnville
The town of Spurgeon will use the grant funds to install 14,400 feet of low-pressure sewer main pipes to collect wastewater and 27,500 of force main pipes to convey wastewater to the Lynnville wastewater treatment plant.
“Individual homeowners utilize septic tanks and absorption fields for on-site wastewater treatment. Due to limiting soil conditions, the Pike County Health Department no longer issues permits for septic systems in the town. The limiting soil conditions, including the depth to the saturated zone and slow water movement, do not allow the on-site septic systems to operate as intended, causing water and groundwater pollution problems in the area and leading to potential system failures,” the town said in its grant application.
The town will contribute an additional $4.3 million to the project, which is expected to begin Oct. 31, 2021 and be completed by Oct. 30, 2022.
$1.9 million for Sullivan Industrial Park and Hospital Lift Station improvements
Sullivan County will use the grant to accommodate the construction of a new 180-bed county jail north of the city of Sullivan and to upgrade and extend sewer service to an industrial park, Sullivan County Hospital, and Breckenridge Commons and Villas assisted living facilities.
“The project will reduce health and safety concerns of City workers when working on the Hospital Lift Station and will eliminate public health risks for back-ups and overflows due to the Hospital LS being under capacity. This project provides a collaborative, regional solution to the surrounding County area and provides businesses along Section Street a sewer main to connect if on-site facilities fail,” the county said.
The county will contribute an additional $1.9 million to the project, which is expected to begin April 2022 and be completed by Dec. 2022.
SULLIVAN-VIGO RURAL WATER CORPORATION
$750,000 for eight miles of waterlines in Vigo County
The corporation said it will use the grant to fund the extension of eight miles of waterlines to create looping, or circulation, in the water system.
The construction is expected to increase water access and water quality to residents served by the corporation.
“The utility primarily serves residential families who lacked quality and/or quantity of water. Potential customers have voiced concerns regarding corrosive properties on existing appliances, sand in their water, damage to clothing and other personal property. Another individual has indicated their child suffering from constant stomach issues,” the corporation wrote.
The corporation will contribute an additional $1.7 million to the project, which is expected to begin late June 2022 and be completed by June 30, 2023.
TALL OAKS LAKE CONSERVATION DISTRICT
$600,000 for dam restoration and renovation
The Tall Oaks Lake Conservation District will use grant money to restore and renovate a dam at the edge of Twin Oaks Lake north of Morgantown.
“The dam serves as singular access to nine of the homes surrounding Twin Oaks Lake. Mail, delivery propane, trash and emergency services cross the dam to reach these homes,” the district said.
The district will contribute a further $300,000 to the project, which will begin spring 2002 and is expected to be completed by next fall.
TOWN OF TRAFALGAR
$2.5 million for wastewater treatment plant improvements
The town will use the grant to double the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant and upgrade the collection system to eliminate inflow and infiltration, excess water that flows into pipes from groundwater and stormwater.
During an inspection in July 2020, IDEM inspectors found the town’s collection system ran above its design capacity for several months, but reported just one overflow. The same inspection found the town’s Lancaster lift station had deteriorating concrete walls, making it appear as if the plant was “beyond its useful life.”
The town said the overflow was due to a sanitary line that was damaged due to erosion of a creek bank during high water from rainfall. The line was later repaired.
The grant will allow the town to upgrade plant capacity to handle 400,000 gallons per day and renovate two lift stations, including the Lancaster lift station, to handle the growth the community has recently experienced.
The town will contribute a further $5.7 million to the project, which will begin Jan. 2002 and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2022.
WELLS COUNTY REGIONAL SEWER DISTRICT
$5 million for new sanitary sewer collection systems for Craigville, Tocsin and Kingsland
The grant funding will allow the Wells County Regional Sewer District to build a sanitary sewer collection system for the unincorporated communities of Craigville, Tocsin and Kingsland, as well as other homes along the route of the water main built for the system.
“The current project areas are currently serviced by onsite septic systems that are failing and beyond their useful life. Most of the properties within the project areas do not have a documented septic system on file at the Health Department (records go back to 1980s), so most of the onsite systems are older than the recognized 20-year lifespan per Indiana Code,” the district told the IFA.
The district said soil in the area was known to fail inspections and evaluations, making it unsuitable for a sustainable treatment system. The communities involved were also concerned about the lack of separation between failed septic systems and potable water wells and its potential effect on drinking water quality.
“The water quality was also tested via the storm sewer systems currently servicing the unincorporated communities. These test results have found the E. coli counts to be extremely high, alluding to the fact that the existing on-site treatment systems currently have off lot discharge at a minimum to the storm sewer collection systems. The only foreseeable option for most of the residents would be for the RSD to aid in supplying the area with a sanitary sewer collection system or they will be forced to pump and haul,” the district wrote.
The new construction is expected to reduce impairments to Eightmile Creek, Maple Creek and Dowty Ditch, water bodies that ultimately connect with the Wabash River.
The district will contribute a further $17 million to the project, which will begin May 2002 and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2022.
WESTERN WAYNE REGIONAL SEWAGE DISTRICT
$2 million for wastewater treatment plant improvements
The grant will allow the district to upgrade the waste water treatment plant in Cambridge, which will improve its screening, address freezing issues and expand the plant in several places after employees expressed concerns about entry points in confined spaces.
The funding will also help improve raw sewage pumps, which the district said are currently undersized to prevent overflows during extreme weather events.
The district will contribute a further $18.4 million to the project.
TOWN OF WESTPORT
$2.5 million for wastewater utility improvements
The town said it will use the funding to complete improvements that will address chronic overflow and infiltration issues the town has experienced since 1993.
Westport said it would use the grant to offset costs of the project, nearly half of which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The town said that rates for its customers would increase by 48% if the grant was not received.
“The wastewater project is needed. However, the residents are extremely concerned they will not be able to afford the rates increases needed for the wastewater project.”
The town began a major sewer rehabilitation project in 2003, after it entered into an agreement with IDEM. Between 2004 and 2006, the town investigated the source of the overflows and intrusion, replacing hundreds of feet of deficient pipe in 2007.
Even after the replacement, overflows continued to occur. The town experienced at least 21 overflow events every year between 2007 and 2011.
The town undertook another large improvement project in 2012, but overflows continued during heavy rain events, and IDEM issued the town various sewer ban early warning notices.
IDEM inspectors have found multiple violations at the Westport wastewater treatment plant as recently as Sept. 13.
The town will contribute $6.5 million to the project, which will begin May 2002 and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2022.