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IDEM mandates hit again – Some property owners to face repair costs

February 20, 2013

    The Indiana Department of Environmental Management's (IDEM) mandate is going to be taking new financial whacks at some Decatur residents in the near future.
    Due to IDEM's demand that the city reduce its Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), sewage rates have been forced way up. And now, some residents are going to have to ante up to make sewer line repairs on their properties.
    The city has spent millions of dollars over the years to reduce CSOs and make mandated changes at its sewer treatment plant. Then IDEM came back again and wanted more CSO reductions and other changes. Entering into an Agreed Order with IDEM has provided city officials with a couple of years in which to come into compliance.
    The latest "hit" will come following smoke testing done by an outside firm which revealed various sewer defects on private properties. Sewage Treatment Plant Superintendent Anne Butcher and City Engineer Nathan Rumschlag laid it all out at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
    Butcher said the smoke testing firm's final report showed 159 minor defects on private properties, those certain to cost less than $100. They cited several examples, such as the need to cut off downspouts, to replace cleanout caps, things of that nature.
    Those property owners will soon by notified by the city and, if the property owner wishes, city employees will make the repairs, Butcher said. If the property owners wants to do it himself/herself, that will be okay, too.
    However, the testing also revealed 57 "significant" repairs that need to be made, According to Butcher, the majority of them involve lines from the property to the city sewer line that are cracked and/or leaking. Those repairs are likely to be much more costly and will be the responsibility of the property owners whom the city will notify.
    About two dozen property owners, it was pointed out, will be tagged for both minor and significant repair needs.    
    The defects are over a "wide area of the city," Rumschlag said.
    He also noted that a large number of defects exist on city property and those repairs will be the city's responsiblity.
    Further smoke testing is in the future, Butcher said, probably in another couple of years.
    FOOTNOTE: Council gave final approval to a sewer bond ordinance dealing with the city’s ongoing plan to sell bonds to raise some $3 million to pay for changes to comply with the Agreed Order.
    The 45-page ordinance gives the city bonding authority for up to $6 million and as long as 60 years. The city won’t be spending that much, "but it gives us some flexibility," the mayor said at the previous meeting.

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