ELKHART — The planned installation of a large holding tank under the parking lot off Waterfall Drive in downtown Elkhart is just one in a series of planned upgrades to the city's sewer infrastructure.
The holding tank plans are causing the jitters among some. Go here to see why.
The plans, overall, will cost a total of about $134 million in coming years, with five holding tanks in all to be installed around the city. The federal government is mandating the work — here and in locales across the country — to keep dirty, untreated wastewater from entering rivers and streams.
Here are some more project details from Mike Machlan, the city engineer:
- The tanks will hold excess wastewater and stormwater run-off generated during heavy storms. As is, when rainfall is heavy, overloading the wastewater treatment plant here, excess wastewater and stormwater run-off is discharged directly into waterways, untreated. The storage tanks will allow most of the excess run-off to be collected and treated gradually, as capacity at the treatment plant allows.
- The tank under the Waterfall Drive lot — 80 feet by 150 feet by 12 feet — will prevent the entry of 6 million to 8 million gallons of untreated sewage a year into the Elkhart River. As is, untreated wastewater overflows into the river near where the new tank is to be placed around 40 times per year. That will go down to eight times a year or less when the project is done.
- A tank like the one going in at the Waterfall Drive lot was installed in High Dive Park. At the same time as the Waterfall Drive project, another 500,000-gallon tank will be installed on the grounds of the Elkhart Environmental Center. Two more tanks, along Riverside Drive and around Oakland and Indiana avenues, are to be installed in coming years.
- Parallel to the Waterfall Drive tank work, new water mains are to be installed in the area. As part of that work, travel will be restricted for perhaps two months on Lexington Avenue west of Waterfall Drive so the street can be dug up for the water system upgrades. A firm time frame has not yet been set, though at least one lane of traffic should be maintained during the work there.
- The bank of the Elkhart River roughly between High and Franklin streets will get aesthetic improvements, also as part of the Waterfall Drive tank installation.
- The Waterfall Drive tank project has an estimated $5 million price tag while the parallel water main, aesthetic work and other related improvements will cost $2 million to $4 million. The work has yet to be bid out.
- City officials considered other sites for the planned Waterfall Drive tank, including under Central Park at Waterfall Drive and High Street, but opted for the parking lot site to the north.
- A public meeting on the Waterfall Drive tank plans will be from 5 to 7 p.m. March 19 at the Lerner Theatre, 410 S. Main St., Elkhart.