- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A small municipality within Indianapolis sued a hospital operator Tuesday, alleging that water runoff from a shuttered hospital is infiltrating its sanitary sewers and saddling the city with water-treatment costs.

Beech Grove’s suit filed in Marion Superior Court names the Franciscan Alliance Inc., a Catholic nonprofit that operates 13 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.

The suit contends the city has paid for years for treatment of storm runoff and groundwater that’s entering Beech Grove’s sanitary sewers from the former St. Francis Hospital, which moved in 2012 to a new site on Indianapolis’ south side.

Mayor Dennis Buckley said an engineering firm the Franciscan Alliance hired last year found nearly 31,000 gallons of water were entering the city’s sanitary sewers every day from the 14-acre former hospital site, even though its water service has been turned off.

Buckley said that amount of daily water discharges could be costing the city tens or thousands of dollars a year, or more, in water-treatment bills from local utility Citizens Energy Group, but the exact amount of Beech Grove’s costs isn’t known.

He said it’s “simply irresponsible” to ask residents in the city of 14,000 to pay for treating the hospital’s water runoff.

Franciscan St. Francis Health spokesman Joe Stuteville said the Franciscan Alliance and Franciscan St. Francis Health do not comment on pending litigation.

Beech Grove wants a judge to order the Franciscan Alliance to address the water problems in the building. Its suit also seeks reimbursement for its water treatment costs, fines of $1,000 per day under a city ordinance and other damages.

Buckley said a state environmental report recently obtained by the city also suggests the hospital had for years discharged a hazardous waste that’s 90 percent methanol into the city’s sewers.

“I would like to enforce the ordinance and require them to pay a penalty and then ultimately I would like an environmental review done of the property and for it be cleaned up,” he said.

Buckley said Beech Grove officials and an engineering firm they hired inspected the hospital site Feb. 28, even though Franciscan Alliance had refused to approve that inspection.

He said the city’s engineering firm found that water pumped out of the hospital’s basement by sump pumps may have been entering the sanitary sewers. Beech Grove believes that water and water infiltrating into old pipes at the hospital, which opened in 1914, are the source of the water entering the sewers.

Homeowners near the old hospital have faced raw sewage backups in their basements during wet weather and Buckley said that might be caused by the hospital site’s water runoff woes.

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