Last year, the Chesterton Utility learned that a 1.2-million gallon storage
tank whose construction is mandated by the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management (IDEM)—as part of a “long term control plan” to
reduce sewage bypasses into the Little Calumet River during heavy rain
events—will cost something on the order of $11.6 million.
But that long term control plan—LTCP for short—will require other
modifications of the wastewater treatment plant as well.
How much will those other modifications cost?
Unknown at this point.
That’s why the Utility Service Board at its meeting Monday night voted 4-0
to enter into a $6,500 contract with DLZ, under which DLZ will compile a
list of all retrofits necessary to comply with the LTCP and—more
important—an estimated cost of those retrofits.
Member Jim Raffin was not in attendance.
When completed, that list will be forwarded to the Utility’s contracted
financial consultant, London Witte Group of Indianapolis, which in turn will
use those hard numbers to determine how exactly the Utility is going to
finance the overall LTCP work. A bond issue of some sort is likely,
President Larry Brandt told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting.
The timeline project timeline:
•IDEM should complete permitting by June.
•Design: August 2012-July 2013.
•September 2013-March 2014: Funding development
•Bidding and construction: January 2015-June 2016.
•Startup and commissioning: June 2016-December 2017.
The idea behind the tank is to store up to 1.2 million gallons of flow
during heavy rain events, pumped to the tank by a lift station on the
grounds of the wastewater treatment plant. When the rain has lessened and
the plant has caught up, a gravity line will then bleed the excess gallonage
back to the lift station, to be pumped to the plant for treatment.
In other business, Superintendent Rob Lovell reported that he will be
talking this week to a firm in Michigan City interested in purchasing at
least some of the Utility’s sludge, for possible conversion to fertilizer.
Right now, the Utility pays a trucking firm to transport the sludge to a
farm, then pays the farmer to land-apply the stuff. Basically, Brandt told
the Tribune, the Utility spends “tens of thousands of dollars” every
year to dump the sludge in what is essentially a land fill.
But the Utility’s investment in a centrifuge has resulted in a higher
quality sludge, which is drier, easier to store, and—because less water and
energy are used to process it—cheaper. That higher quality sludge could
conceivably be turned into fertilizer, Brandt said, although the details of
any arrangement between the Utility and the Michigan City firm have yet to
But the possibility now exists, Brandt added, that instead of paying for
sludge disposal, the Utility could turn a bit of a profit by selling it
Meanwhile, Lovell reported that the Utility far exceeded expectations in
2011 and ended the year with a surplus of $318,405, against a project
deficit of $44,130.
The Utility, in particular, exceeded projected revenues by $375,872 or
nearly 11 percent. It also went under its projected budget by $71,892, with
notable out-performances in wages ($93,940 less than projected), pensions
and benefits ($211,456 less than projected), and chemicals ($33,967 less
Those line items were partially offset by total legal expenses of $225,933
(fully $205,933 more than projected), largely due to the Utility’s
unsuccessful intervention in the Damon Run Conservancy District’s petition
before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The Utility began 2011 with a total cash position of $2,439,872 and ended it
with one of $3,066,425. “If there’s any way we can contribute to the Ind. 49
corridor project, we may be able to squeeze out a few dollars,” Brandt
Last year the wastewater treatment plant treated a total of 852,400,000
gallons, compared to 852,081,000 in 2010. It bypassed a total of 3.574
million gallons, in a year which saw 47 inches of precipitation, compared to
bypasses of 3.937 million gallons in 2010, in a year which saw 41 inches of
rain. “It’s not the rainfall over a year,” Brandt noted. “It’s what comes,
when it comes.”
Chesterton used an average of 47 percent of its 3.688 million gallon per day
(gpd) allotment of the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 65 percent of its
851,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 71 percent
of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 51 percent of its