City to consider wastewater upgrades, rate increase


HUNTINGBURG — The City of Huntingburg must look at improvements to the wastewater treatment plant to meet state requirements for future growth and for safety.

Ultimately, that will likely result in a rate increase.

“Will there be a rate increase associated with this project? Yes,” Mayor Denny Spinner said after Tuesday’s Huntingburg Common Council meeting. “What we’re trying to do is be as fiscally responsible as we can to phase it out to minimize the impact. But yes, there will be rate increases associated with meeting these requirements.”

What kind of increase has not been determined yet. A study was recently completed about addressing the flow issues at the plant. Eric Parsley of Commonwealth Engineers presented the study to the council Tuesday.

The wastewater facility treats about 1.4 million gallons per day on average, with a peak flow of 2 million gallons per day. “The issue comes in that if you exceed 2 million gallons per day, which you do,” Parsley said. “Tanks are activated to store excess flows above 2 million gallons per day.”

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 what unfortunately occurs is sometimes that 2 million gallons a day plus flow occurs for multiple days in a row,” Parsley said, “and you exceed your ability to store that additional flow in these lagoons. What happens then is the flow is chlorinated in this last lagoon for disinfection purposes and then blended back in with a fully treated wastewater and discharged.”

The plant is meeting its requirements. But it is operating within what was designed to handle instances of overflow. Those instances are becoming more of the norm, Parsley explained.

“The plant runs very efficiently, but we are taxing it very hard,” he said. “Our loadings are higher than what we’re designed for.”

This is an issue that has also come to the attention of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, he said.

Huntingburg has been proactive in efforts to try to reduce the city’s inflow and infiltration into the system. “So it’s not a situation where we haven’t been looking at and trying to address this issue,” Parsley said. “It’s a situation of where there’s no large identifiable smoking guns, direct contributors to the system that are then going to result in significant reductions in flow."

So even if there was successful inflow and infiltration reduction, “we may still have a flow issue at the wastewater treatment plant,” Parsley said. “So we know something needs to be done to address flows.”

Upgrading current facilities wouldn’t solve the problem.

“The facilities that we would need to be able to get those flows at the minimum of 2.6 million gallons per day would be piping upsizing,” Parsley said. “We have insufficient space out there. The clarifiers need to be either replaced, or additional clarifiers added.”

Most of the clarifiers that are being used were built between 1957 and 1973, Parsley said.

Also, the oxidation ditch would have to be englarged, but there is not enough space to do that, he said.

Parsley suggested some new facilities that would address the problems. One type of treatment facility that could be considered is a membrane bioreactor. “The advantage of these are they are very small footprints,” he said. “But they are quite costly.” This would cost about $27 million to construct.

The other is sequential batch reactors. They are a smaller footprint, yet the cost is not as great, Parsley said.

“They are very easy to operate,” he said. “You will actually see lower operational costs, compared to the type of facility that you have now.” This would cost about $17.9 million to construct.

Constructing a new oxidation ditch would cost about $23.7 million.

The city can’t do nothing, Parsley said.

“The wastewater treatment plant is overloaded hydraulically,” he said, “and we have concerns with your organic loadings as well.”

The facility could be prevented from adding new customers in the future, he said.

And in the future, there could be a risk with untreated water being discharged, “creating the risk to human health and safety,” Parsley said. “Again, we’re meeting limits now. There’s no urgent concern about exposures or anything.”

Parsley explained the various grant and loan options the council could consider for any project. The State Revolving Loan has low interest loans at a rate of about 2% within a 20-year term; Parsley expects that rate to eventually increase. The USDA Rural Development Office also offers low interest loans and there are available grants through the Economic Development Agency.

The council took the report and will study the matter. A committee was also established to review options and to bring recommendations to the council. The committee includes Spinner, Councilman Steve McPherron, Wastewater plant Manager Brad Coomer, Clerk-Treasurer Tom Dippel and Community Development Director Rachel Steckler.

The council also:

• Heard a presentation of “Your Home, Your Huntingburg,” the proposed updated comprehensive plan for the city. The council will review the plan and consider adopting it at the council’s next meeting, which is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at City Hall, 508 E. Fourth St. A copy of the plan is available for public review at City Hall and online at

• Approved an $18,000 loan from the city’s Revolving Loan Fund for Serendipity Fibers. The business plans to expand and diversify its inventory and possibly hire an additional part-time employee. The loan will be paid back over five years at an interest rate of 3%.

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