Looming sewer work in Elkhart, including downtown tank installation, will cost around $23 million

Included in the price tag is installation of the huge sewage holding tank under a downtown parking lot, which will reduce the amount of untreated sewage going into the Elkhart River.

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.

ELKHART — The next phase of upgrades to the city's sewer system, including installation of a large underground tank in downtown Elkhart, will cost an estimated $23.26 million.

The tank, to be installed beneath a parking lot at the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Waterfall Drive, will prevent discharge of around 8.3 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Elkhart River per year.

Per upgrades to the Elkhart Wastewater Treatment Plant at 1201 S. Nappanee St. — another element of the looming phase — wastewater will be treated via ultraviolet light disinfection, meaning chlorine gas will no longer have to be used. A minor leak last month at the plant of the gas, which can cause serious physical harm, forced the temporary closure of Nappanee Street.

Those details and more came out Tuesday, April 1, at a public hearing on the engineering plans related to the coming project phase. No one from the public spoke out and the plans received approval from the Elkhart Board of Public Works.

The city is in the midst of a major overhaul of its sewer treatment plant and the underground network of pipes that carry sewage and stormwater to the facility, per tightened federal environmental rules. The planned installation of the one-million gallon tank beneath the city-owned Gause parking lot has, perhaps, received the most public attention of late, from downtown merchants who worry the work will disrupt downtown activity.

But it's just one prong of the current phase, which, itself, is just one element of broader planned and ongoing upgrades.


Here's more that came out Tuesday:

  • Comments will be taken on the engineering plans of the coming phase until April 9. They should be mailed to the Elkhart Department of Public Works, 1201 S. Nappanee St., Elkhart, IN, 46516. They may also be emailed to Tory Irwin, a utility engineer for the city, at tory.irwin@coei.org.
  • The estimated $23.26 million cost of the new phase won't cause a bump in city utility customers' rates, though other elements of the broader upgrade have, according to Irwin. The city plans to issue bonds and tap a special state loan program that offers relatively low interest rates to pay for the plans, with bids to be sought in May and the precise cost coming thereafter. Work on the next phase is to begin in July.
  • Ultimately, upgrades to the Elkhart Wastewater Treatment Plant will allow it to handle 60 million gallons of wastewater per day at peak times, up from 40 million gallons a day, according to Mark Nye with DLZ, the South Bend firm aiding in plan development.
  • As is, about 8.9 million gallons of untreated sewage per year enter the Elkhart River via outlet pipes near the Gause lot during heavy storms, when wastewater treatment plant capacity is taxed and can't handle excess. The new underground tank there, designed to hold excess runoff during storms, will reduce that to an estimated 600,000 gallons per year, said Nye, who was at Tuesday's meeting.
  • The overall estimated price tag for the broad range of upgrades, to be completed by 2034, totals $155 million in 2007 dollar terms, Nye said.

 Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.


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