City seeking funding for wastewater improvements

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — The City of Huntingburg is looking to get grant and loan funding in place for potential wastewater plant upgrades.

Submitting an application to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development is the first step to getting needed money in place for the work.

A committee designated by the council is currently studying options for improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant to meet state requirements for future growth and for safety.

After the USDA application is submitted, the federal agency will send the city a letter of condition that will state the grant amount and loan amount the USDA will offer and establish the interest rate, Teresa Criss Hartwig explained to the council. The current rate is 1.375%, but that will change at the beginning of July; Hartwick expects the USDA to make its offer in July. With the way rates are trending, the rate could go down, but that is not known for sure, she said.

Submitting the application does not require the city to do any project.

“It does obligate the USDA to set aside the funds for the project, and it does lock in the interest rate for the city,” Hartwig said.

A study about flow issues at the wastewater plant was recently completed by Commonwealth. It showed that the plant treats about 1.4 million gallons per day on average, with a peak flow of 2 million gallons per day. But when the plant exceeds the 2 million gallons per day, tanks are activated to store the excess flow. The intent is for the excess flow to be drained back into the plant for complete treatment and discharged to the plant’s ditch.

But sometimes the plant exceeds the 2 million gallons per day for multiple days in a row, which exceeds the ability to store the additional flow.

The plant is meeting its state requirements. But it is consistently operating within what was designed to handle instances of overflow, and those instances are becoming more of the common. That problem has been noticed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Huntingburg has been proactive over the years in its efforts to reduce the city’s inflow and infiltration into the system. But even with that work, the flow problem will likely continue, the study found.

Upgrading current facilities wouldn’t solve the problem because of insufficient space, including the current clarifiers and oxidation ditch.

The study gave options of new facilities that could be constructed: a membrane bioreactor, which would cost about $27 million; a new oxidation ditch, which would cost about $23.7 million; or sequential batch reactors, which would cost about $17.9 million.

By doing nothing, the plant could run the risk of discharging untreated water in the future, the study found. Also the city could be prevented from adding new customers in the future.
Funding the improvements to meet the state requirements will likely lead to a rate increase.

The council also:

• Approved a hedging agreement that will allow Clerk-Treasurer Tom Dippel to enter into a gas purchasing agreement through Utility Gas Management when gas prices are low. The city has a prepaid gas purchase contract with UGM. But since gas prices are now falling, UGM recommends that the city contracts some of its purchasing while prices are low, which City Attorney Phil Schneider said is called hedging. Dippel and Utility Manager John Reutepohler, who runs the gas department, will determine the appropriate time to do the hedging, Schneider said.




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