Project Highlight: Town of Elberfeld WWTP Improvements Project
PROJECT HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
The Town of Elberfeld constructed a new wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in 2000. The project was financed through the Indiana Finance Authority using State Revolving Funds. Soon after the facility was placed online, the community realized that the newly constructed plant was not capable of accommodating excess flows during wet weather events. Years of progressive studies followed by collection system improvements led to the realization that the WWTP would need to be expanded to accommodate the extraneous flows generated during wet weather and allow for future expansion of the system and economic development in Elberfeld and surrounding Warrick County.
In 2007, a sanitary sewer overflow event led to an Agreed Order with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). The Town was put in non-compliance and, with the Agreed Order and possible IDEM enforcement looming, stepped up efforts to find easily identifiable areas in the system to make repairs to solve the problem. Commonwealth Engineers was hired to design a larger WWTP that could also accommodate a new industrial park north of the town but, as is often the case, the funding available at the time fell short of making it a reality. So the Town turned to other, less expensive ways to try and solve the problem – starting in 2004, the Town began an intensive gravity sewer rehabilitation focused on removing inflow and infiltration (I/I) from the old 1960’s clay pipe system. That effort was completed in 2012 and hydraulic modeling was again conducted. On the positive side, the modeling showed that the baseline dry weather flows increased at the WWTP. However, wet weather flows continued to result in hydraulic overloads that resulted in sanitary sewer overflows. This meant that, despite the substantial time, effort and money expended, the Town was still in need of an expensive WWTP expansion without the funding available to get it done.
COLLABORATION TO MOVE THE PROJECT FORWARD
In 2015, Commonwealth was directed to prepare a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) for submittal to Rural Development (RD) and the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) for grant and low-interest loan consideration to expand the Town’s WWTP. The Economic Development Coalition of Southwestern Indiana was retained as Elberfeld’s grant administrator. The goal of Elberfeld’s Town Council was to maintain reasonable sewer rates of $65/month. Warrick County also had a vested interest in the utility infrastructure to support the North Warrick Industrial Park. A very modest amount of capacity had been allotted the county to get their development moving. The limiting factors affecting available capacity were the high I/I rates found in the system during wet weather. The system modeling indicated that the WWTP had to be expanded to accommodate future flows as well as to provide capacity in the system for wet weather flows.
In 2016, Warrick County and Elberfeld entered into a Grant Agreement whereby Warrick County committed to provide $1,000,000 in funding contingent on Elberfeld securing the remainder. The WWTP was designed and bids were sought for the project in the spring of 2018. But the bids came in approximately $600,000 over the budget. At the time, all funding participants, RD, OCRA and Warrick County had committed to dollars based on the estimated budget. The $600,000 unexpected increase pushed projected rates to $87 month, an 80% increase from current rates and a 34% increase from the target rate putting the project at a standstill for the second time. At this point, the Town knew that it was running out of time to satisfy the IDEM agreed order to come into compliance, or risk being fined.
The Town’s attorneys, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC, requested Warrick County to provide additional funding to cover the increased cost and keep rates down. In conjunction with the attorney’s efforts, the rate consultants, H. J. Umbaugh & Associates, worked to develop creative financing to keep the project alive and rates low while satisfying all RD and OCRA requirements. In April of 2018, Warrick County approved a supplemental agreement to provide additional grant funds. USDA Rural Development also approved an additional $200,000 in project assistance to offset expenses. Thanks to their collaborative efforts, even with the expanded projected project the rates were kept at the targeted $65 month.
The project’s loan closed on May 23, 2018, with a construction period of 365 days to final completion. This effort would not have been possible if not for the cooperative effort of the Town of Elberfeld, Warrick County, officials, agencies, and professionals that were dedicated to moving the project forward. At the eleventh hour, the Town of Elberfeld and Warrick County were able to take quick action to bridge a significant funding gap and make this water resource project a reality. The result is a much needed and long-awaited project that will allow Elberfeld to finally terminate its Agreed Order with IDEM, allow the County to provide needed sewer capacity for the North Warrick Industrial Park, and allow both to turn their collective attention to future expansion and opportunities for economic growth.
Projects like this show the dedication that our municipalities have in updating and maintaining Indiana Water/Wastewater Infrastructure for the health and safety of all Hoosiers and our environment.