City to foot $2.7M bill for IDEM-ordered compliance

Friday, August 15, 2014

Since last October, when the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) declared the City of Greencastle water supply under the influence of surface water, city officials have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A construction project and a major expense were almost certain to follow. Only a matter of time, it began to materialize this week.

That other shoe -- a big, old size 14EEE boot -- dropped right on city officials as Lori Young of Curry & Associates Consulting Engineers and Architects detailed the preliminary engineering report on a project that would bring the city in compliance with IDEM and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Complying with required modifications to the city's water treatment plant and wellfield, Young told the City Council during a special meeting, will necessitate a total project cost of $2,675,500 and almost certainly an increase in water rates.

Current revenues generated by the city water utility cannot fund such a project, Mayor Sue Murray reminded the Council before unequivocally adding, "We are going to have to increase our rates."

Estimated cost elements of the project include:

-- Pre-chlorination system, $187,000.

-- Coagulant feed system, $21,500.

-- Turbidity monitoring, $42,000.

-- Filter media replacement, $105,000.

-- Clear well tank and transfer pumps, $1,312,000.

-- Backwash recycling system, $37,000.

-- SCADA control system, $150,000.

-- Well rehabilitation, $125,000.

-- Total probable construction cost, $1,979,500.

-- Contingency recommendation, $305,000.

-- Non-construction costs (land acquisition, engineering fees, other professional services), $391,000

The City Council took no action on the issue Tuesday night nor was it asked to make any motions. The issue will next go before the Board of Public Works and Safety, which will study rate hike options and make a recommendation to the Council at a later date.

"Council," the mayor added, "the important thing to know is we don't have a choice. We're under an agreed order and we have to do these changes now."

According to that order, the City of Greencastle has 18 months -- as of last Oct. 7 -- to comply with the IDEM determination that is expected to require modifications to the city's water treatment plant.

Contributing to the issue is that Greencastle's population has now surpassed the 10,000 mark (by 326 residents), putting the water utility under new, stricter guidelines which mandate the need for a WT-5 level of operation. That requires a licensed operator be present at the water treatment plant during all hours of water production.

What has driven all this is that IDEM has been empowered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make determinations concerning whether municipal systems using a groundwater source are under direct influence of surface water. Patrick Carroll, chief of the Drinking Water Branch of the Indiana Office of Water Quality, has documented as much in a letter to the mayor.

A recent assessment of the Greencastle system has showed higher than normal groundwater temperatures. While normal ground temperature is about 55 degrees (plus or minus two or three degrees), the report documents a water temperature differential of about 14 degrees.

And based on the temperature differential supplied by the city water system, Wells, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 have been determined to be under the direct influence of surface water. In addition, Well 7 has tested positive for

total coliform.

The current city water plant does not meet SWTR (Surface Water Treatment Rules), Young advised.

However, the Catch 22 there is that the city facility presently has no deficiencies among its disinfection, filtration, coagulant, turbidity and monitoring aspects.

"What you're drinking is OK, yes," Young assured. "This water supply is still a good, solid water supply."

Unfortunately for the city, both IDEM and the EPA work under the supposition, Young said, that groundwater is considered contaminated when under the influence of sur-

face water.

The irony, she said, is that Greencastle water "probably has always been under the influence of surface water."

What triggered the EPA and IDEM interest this time, however, is the 14-degree temperature swing in the wells.

Water temperature is an indicator for IDEM and EPA to mandate "barriers of protection."

The surpassing of 10,000 in population "was another trigger," she noted.

It is important to note, however, that the Greencastle water has never exceeded any safety levels, city officials stressed.

In what essentially amounts to an unfunded mandate by EPA and IDEM, Greencastle will need to construct a tank for additional treatment to provide chlorine contact after initial filtration of the water pumped from its wells. Plans are to apply for a State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan of approximately 2.3 percent interest to cover the $2.675 million pricetag.

The timetable on the project includes plans and specifications being submitted to IDEM in September with approval expected next month, followed by the city advertising for bids.

October should see construction permit approval from IDEM and receipt of bids, followed by a November close on the SRF loan.

A contract award is expected immediately following the closing of the SRF loan.

Construction is tentatively set to begin in December with substantial construction completion due next May and project completion in July 2015.

Meanwhile, compliance is already being addressed as Well 7 has been taken out of service. The well could still be used in emergency situations such as firefighting or a mechanical failure. If it becomes necessary to use Well 7, IDEM officials noted, "it should be the last on and the

first off."

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  • as if our water bill is not already absurb

    -- Posted by bfeldc1 on Sat, Aug 16, 2014, at 10:55 AM
  • Greencastle can afford it. Just use some of that tax revenue they're generated by bringing all these new businesses to downtown. Oh wait.... maybe not. Greencastle will always have major issues it can't pay for. Half the city is exempt from contributing through exclusion or tax abatements. Another quarter cant contribute because they are barely getting by. The remaining quarter foot the bill but cant forever carry the burden. Do something to help line the coffers so you have a contingency. A food and beverage tax would generate a nice rainy day fund. Greencastle sells lots of hamburgers and pizzas. The pennies would add up fast. An extra penny sounds better than paying interest on everything we do and seeing bigger increases down the road...

    -- Posted by jorge on Sat, Aug 16, 2014, at 5:12 PM
  • Get your pocketbooks out, this is gonna cost us.....

    -- Posted by agadgetguy on Sun, Aug 17, 2014, at 5:26 PM
  • Love it when politicians, especially those sympathetic to IDEM and EPA, come under scrutiny from these organizations

    -- Posted by Avenger1234 on Tue, Aug 19, 2014, at 12:24 PM
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