City facing wastewater order from IDEM

Authored by Jim Langham on Dec 12, 2012

Requirements recently ordered by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) are directing local officials toward a multi-million dollar effort in order to comply with reduction of the amount of ammonia contained in its wastewater sodium effluent by the year 2015.
Ben Adams, of Commonwealth Engineering, said that a pre-final draft review of a preliminary engineering report outlined a compliance schedule for reducing the ammonia flowing into area rivers and streams. Adams further advised that a plan of attack is due to IDEM by Feb. 1 of 2013.
Adams said that there are actually six ways the wastewater treatment problem can be addressed, but two seem best suited for the local situation. One plan involves retaining the present ponds and adding a system to control the ammonia. The second plan would be to completely abandon the lagoons and put in a mechanical type of treatment facility, and then close the lagoons.
Adams noted that the city currently operates off of 36 acres lagoon usage.
While the total cost of the system could amount to several million dollars, Adams noted that there could be substantial financial assistance available through a program he looked at from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“They fund infrastructure improvements, specializing in towns under populations of 10,000 people,” said Adams. “There could be anywhere from 45 to 75 percent of the project available.”
The engineer noted that USDA program finances at a 2.1 percent and that most funding is available for a 40-year period. That formula, Adams said, would impact local residents about $10 a month.
The engineer noted that the solution involving the present ponds (post-lagoon year-round nitrification) is least expensive and also involves less maintenance. However, in order to utilize that approach, cell one would have be cleaned and other preparations would be necessary for installation.
“The preliminary recommendation from the state is the plan that retains the lagoon usage,” noted Adams.
Adams recommended that city officials consider visiting a similar lagoon in a small city in Missouri that is close to the size of Berne that provides a “model that is a good fit” for what the local system would be.
Installation steps would include construction beginning in 2014 and full operation by August of 2015 in order to meet the compliance schedule.
In other matters, council approved the needed legislation for ADA transition planning, including the fact that Becky Sprunger serves as coordinator of the project.

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