In 2008, Mayor Greg Ballard and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works confronted one of the City's greatest challenges--to achieve lasting environmental, economic and community vitality with regard to the City's required Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Consent Decree (CD).
Today, Mayor Ballard's goal to preserve and improve the environment has prevailed. The City successfully negotiated two amendments to the City's CSO Consent Degree that will not only provide cleaner waterways faster than originally planned but also save Indianapolis residents hundreds of millions of dollars.
Referred to as the Enhancement Plan, the CD amendments will allow Indianapolis to divert 3.5 billion gallons of sewage from polluting local waterways ahead of the original schedule and provide a more integrated citywide tunnel system. The modifications will also save Indianapolis residents $740 million by incorporating more cost-effective, environmentally beneficial projects. The amendments modified 14 of the City's 31 CD control measures, added a new control measure, provided new projects and addressed project scheduling and operations to capture raw sewage overflows more quickly.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the City's amended CD during the summer of 2010. The Consent Decree requires that, by 2025, the City capture and treat 97 percent of the sewage overflows in the Fall Creek watershed and 95 percent in the White River and other watersheds in a typical year. By 2025, overflows will be allowed to occur during only two storms per year on Fall Creek and four storms per year on White River and other waterways in a typical year.
Solutions That Work
To help meet these requirements, a tunnel system designed and constructed citywide will consist of five tunnels: the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector, Fall Creek Tunnel, White River Tunnel, Pleasant Run Tunnel and Lower Pogues Run Tunnel. The tunnel system will have a storage capacity of 250 million gallons and will significantly reduce raw sewage overflows during large storm events. The tunnel system will address CSO locations throughout Indianapolis by serving as a comprehensive, underground storage facility for sewage.
As part of the Enhancement Plan, an additional $63.3 million investment will complete four additional projects, which will provide even greater benefits to the local environment. The Belmont North Relief Interceptor will increase sanitary sewer capacity on the northwest side of Indianapolis, and three other projects will improve the operational efficiency of the City's wastewater treatment plants.
Working Together for a Better City
In August 2011, Citizens Energy Group (Citizens), a public charitable trust, assumed responsibility for the water and wastewater utilities for the City of Indianapolis. Citizens pledged to operate the utilities for community benefit and create operating efficiencies that would lower costs. Citizens also committed to assume $1.5 billion in debt, and the utility transfer provided the City approximately $425 million to fix streets, sidewalks and bridges, and to take down abandoned homes. These infrastructure improvements are a part of the City's RebuildIndy program.
The transfer of the water and wastewater utilities to Citizens is a transformational partnership - one that has enabled the City to address hundreds of millions of dollars in critical infrastructure needs and put the water and wastewater utilities into a public trust where they will be best managed without political interference. The City will repair the frayed fabric of the community by investing in infrastructure in neighborhoods neglected for decades.