News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 27, 2014

New technology renders lagoon controversy moot

TERRE HAUTE — Few things were as controversial in the 2011 mayor’s race as the city’s plan to use a pond near the Wabash River to temporarily store combined stormwater and sewage as a way to reduce the amount of pollution dumped into the river.

Now, three years later, city officials are hoping to totally scrap that approach in favor of newer, less expensive technology.

“This is kind of cutting-edge stuff,” said Chuck Ennis, city engineer, interviewed in his City Hall office Friday afternoon.

The new approach would leave the scenic pond, just yards from the east bank of the Wabash River north of Interstate 70, completely untouched by combined sewer overflow (CSO), Ennis said. Not far from the pond would be a small structure known as a “high rate treatment” facility, which uses swirling water hydraulics to separate solids out of CSO and then uses ultraviolet rays to kill any bacteria in the remaining water before sending it into the river, he said.

The new approach also eliminates the use of chlorine, a hazardous material, he noted.

Using high rate treatment (HRT) was proposed by Commonwealth Engineers, Inc. of Indianapolis, a consultancy, because of rising costs associated with the planned use of the pond, Ennis said. The HRT facility should cost about $8 million while the expected cost of the pond approach had started reaching about $13 million, he said.

The idea of storage “got to be too expensive,” Ennis said.

Wabash River Development and Beautification Inc, a volunteer group dedicated to improving the river front, was strongly opposed to the idea of using the pond for CSO storage. The group, better known as “Riverscape,” worried that a CSO pond would have an odor harmful to recreation or economic development along the river.

In that debate, city officials argued the pond would have no odor. Ennis said the new approach will also be odor-free.

“It would all be indoors,” Ennis said. There would be no odor outside of the building, he said.

Riverscape welcomes the new approach, said Charlie Williams, the group’s president.

“We’re very pleased with what we understand is the plan,” Williams said Friday, noting hiking trails are expected around the pond. “We’re thrilled with it,” he said.

This year, the city will open a new hiking trail along the Wabash River from Fairbanks Park to an area just north of the pond, said Pat Martin, city planner, speaking Friday. Once that initial trail is complete, the city would later extend it around the pond, he said. The pond area could even include park-like amenities, Martin said.

But, before anything can happen, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management needs to OK the change in plans, Ennis said. IDEM approved the original plans, which included using the pond to temporarily store CSO, in 2011. Commonwealth gave the amended plan to state officials about two months ago and word from IDEM is expected any day, the city engineer added.

If the plans are approved, the Terre Haute Sanitary Board of Commissioners, whose members are appointed by the mayor to oversee the Sanitary District, would then advertise for bids for the HRT facility, Ennis said. If all goes well, ground could be broken on the facility yet this summer, he said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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