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Council looks at sewer project

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The increase Greenwood residents are  paying in their sewer bill each month is adding up, and now Greenwood is preparing to spend more than $7 million on projects.

The city council is considering borrowing $7.6 million to replace some of the oldest sewer lines in the city, which are downtown in the Pearl Street area. Replacing those pipes and designing other sewer repairs would cost up to $6.9 million, and the rest would cover any extra expenses that could come up during construction.

The construction project is the city’s first to fix its aging sewer system after raising monthly sewer fees for the second time in two years. In 2012, the city council approved two 10 percent increases.

The city was required to plan system repairs after sewage overflowed in 2011, polluting Honey Creek and killing hundreds of fish. Sewage spilled into the water for two days after a fuse blew in a lift station and alarms didn’t work, failing to alert the city of the problem. The state then ordered Greenwood to study its system and plan how to prevent future sewer overflows, or eventually start paying fines of $1,000 per overflow.

The city increased sewer fees by 9 percent in June, and will tack on another 9 percent increase in January, for a total of about $5 per month extra for an average residential customer. The increases will help cover the costs of the first phase of sewer system upgrades to meet state requirements, which don’t allow wastewater and other pollutants to be released into waterways such as creeks.

Greenwood is starting the sewer work in the oldest part of the city, where stormwater most often gets into broken pipes. Some of the Pearl Street pipes are more than 100 years old, city attorney Krista Taggart said. The city chose to do the Pearl Street work first because the pipes are among Greenwood’s oldest and are disintegrating, allowing rain water to get into the sewer system and causing overflows.

The higher fees for sewer service will cover the cost of the payments on the $7.6 million bond. The city would also use part of the money to pay for designing future sewer system projects.

The city hasn’t decided yet how to pay for future sewer repairs, which the state is requiring.

Greenwood hired HWC Engineering of Indianapolis to identify problem spots where stormwater gets into the sewer system, such as in the Old Town area, and causes manholes to overflow. HWC Engineering recommended repairs that will cost an estimated $54 million.

Those sewer upgrades include replacing more than 266,553 feet of sewer lines throughout the city, replacing and fixing nearly 1,000 manholes and repairing roads, driveways and sidewalks damaged by the construction.

By 2018, the city has to prove to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that it has gone 12 consecutive months without a sewer overflow. Currently, the sewer system has small overflows a few times a week, city officials have said.

The city plans to spend about $47 million more to replace and repair pipes and manholes throughout the city over the next 10 years to comply with the state order. That total cost will include video inspections of the insides of sewer pipes, manhole inspections and project designs.

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