‘No Good Choice’ For Crothersville CSO Compliance

About 20 years ago, Crothersville was among the 109 Indiana communities placed under a CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) order by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).
The town’s original storm sewer and sanitary sewer flowed in the same pipes. Over the years, additional surface water has flowed into the sewer system from broken joints and damaged pipes.
The result was, during periods of heavy rain, more water would flow to the wastewater treatment plant than could be treated causing untreated sewage to flow into Hominy Ditch and eventually into the Muscatatuck River.
The town of Crothersville came up with a compliance plan to remove storm water from the sewer system, fixing leaking lines, and to treat the remaining wastewater. And they have been making progress on complying on a pay-as-you-go basis.
But now IDEM is turning down the screws on communities for more rapid and complete action.
Town Council president Danieta Foster, vice president Chad Wilson, FPBH engineer Dan Wright and town grant writer Trena Carter met recently with IDEM officials.
“The town has been making steps toward the compliance plan,” said Carter pointing to the coming Seymour Road/Cindy Lane lift station upgrade.
But IDEM wants faster action. “And the town’s lack of money isn’t reason for any delay, according to IDEM,” said Wright.
As a result, the town will be making application to at least three grant and forgivable loan programs to help pay for the expected $4.6 million wastewater upgrade.
A federal USDA Rural Development loan application deadline is June 15.
Also being sought is a State Revolving Fund loan. The cap on a 20-year SRF loan at 2% interest is $2.9 million, Carter said.
There may also be Community Development Block Grant Funding for the project, she said.
If the town is approved for funding, Wright said repayment on the loans through the sewer debt service would increase monthly sewer rates from the current $43.42 per 4,000 gallons of water consumed to $65.
“If we are not successful at getting any loans or grants, we could be looking at rates going up to $85-$95 per month,” said Carter.
“Not having the money is not an excuse to IDEM,” Wright said. “If the town does nothing, it could mean a sewer ban preventing adding any additional new homes to the system, no expansion to the industries in Crothersville, and fines from IDEM of up to $2,500 per day for non-compliance.”
“We have no good choice,” said Foster.
With its approximately 750 sewer customers, Crothersville is the smallest town on the CSO list. “Larger communities who have complied have lower rate increases because they have more utility customers to share in the cost,” said Wright.
The town council gave their approval for engineering work and grant/loan applications to be submitted. If the funding is approved, loan closing could be sometime in March 2020, Carter said.