- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - A $10 million storm sewer project underway in Muncie could reduce pollution in two waterways by about 10 percent, but controlling sewage overflows in Buck Creek and the White River long-term carries a much heftier price tag.

The Star Press reports (https://tspne.ws/1vpFue7 ) more than 600 million gallons of storm water laced with raw sewage overflowed into the two waterways during the first nine months of this year. That puts them on track to be polluted with more than 800 million gallons of wastewater by the end of the year.

The discharges, which occur after heavy rainfall and snow melt, raise the level of E. coli bacteria to unsafe concentrations.

The city has 17 combined sewer overflows along White River and Buck Creek. The overflows are designed to prevent sewage backups in homes, businesses, streets and the treatment plant when the combined sewers, which are nearly 130 years old, exceed their capacity.

The existing sewer lines will remain in use as sanitary sewers but won’t be as overburdened with heavy rainfall when the new 96-inch storm sewer that is part of the $10 million project is complete, officials said.

The city’s long-term control plan to completely address sewage overflows in the two waterways will cost an estimated $160 million between now and 2031.

“Downtown is a big basin,” said Mike Cline, vice president of the city’s board of sanitary commissioners. “The 96-inch sewer is only the trunk line, the main artery. We don’t have the veins in yet.”

Construction of additional downtown storm sewers is expected to reduce overflows by 75 percent.

The long-term control plan also calls for separating combination storm and sanitary sewers in other neighborhoods.

John Barlow, superintendent of the wastewater treatment plant, said the city is looking for ways to comply with Clean Water Act mandates without spending $160 million over 20 years.

“We have to remain in compliance but we have to come up with some way to stay in compliance without having to spend that amount of money,” he said.

Cost-saving measures might include eliminating bottlenecks at the treatment plant to increase its capacity or creating a storm water retention facility.

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Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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