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Hearing stresses need for new Milltown sewer plant

September 18, 2019
In anticipation of applying for a $700,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to partially fund construction of a new $1.6 million wastewater treatment plant, the Milltown Town Council, prior to its regular monthly meeting last Monday evening, conducted the first of two public hearings.

Matt Robinson of Heritage Engineering points to a rendering of the proposed new wastewater treatment plant during a public hearing prior to the Milltown Town Council's regular monthly meeting on Sept. 9. Photo by Chris Adams
During the public hearing, which lasted about 15 minutes, Matt Robinson of Heritage Engineering spoke about issues with the existing approximately 50-year-old plant and the several options that have been considered.

"You guys have had problems with the wastewater treatment plant for many years," Robinson said. "Most of the problems seem to have been with freezing issues during the winter months."

The plant's oxidation ditch is only about four feet deep, he said, adding the sewer lines also are fairly shallow because of rock, which causes the water to cool down quickly.

"And when the rotors on the oxidation ditch get that water in there, it freezes," Robinson said.

Currently, the plant is operating without any rotors, as the town instead has installed two floating aerators to keep the system operational, he said.

In addition to being so shallow, the current oxidation ditch has cracks in it, likely resulting in leaks, Robinson said.

In its examination of the plant's issues, Heritage Engineering considered six options:

Do nothing.

Rehabilitate the existing oxidation ditch.

Install a new oxidation ditch and reuse the existing tankage.

Install a new aeration tank and reuse the existing tankage.

Replace the plant with a package treatment plant.

Replace the plant with an Aeromod treatment system.

Robinson said the Office of Community and Rural Affairs always wants the first option — do nothing — to be considered but added that isn't viable for the Milltown plant and, therefore, immediately was dismissed.

While some of the other options have advantages, they also have disadvantages, Robinson said. For example, while replacing the current plant with a package treatment plant would provide a whole new system, it would be steel and above ground, likely resulting in the need for replacement, or at the least rehabilitation, in 20 or 25 years, he said.

Robinson said Heritage Engineering recommends the final option, replacing the existing plant with an Aeromod treatment system, "which is little like a package plant, but it's mainly composed of a concrete tank with multiple treatment sections to it."

The Aeromod system, Robinson explained, takes the place of clarifiers, which would still be subject to freezing issues, as well as the digest. He added it also seems to be the most effective system in terms of treating wastewater in the terms of the quality that the town needs, since the plant discharges to a tributary to the state-protected Blue River.

"It tends to do all that stuff and do it very well and very economically," he said.

Robinson said the new plant would have the same 150,000-gallon daily capacity as the existing plant. While only about one-third of that is routinely used, the new plant could be expanded, if needed, he said.

Monty Garrett, president of the town council, said a new plant is long overdue.

"Over the years, it's just been piece-mealed — put in a digester, build another clarifier, do this, do that — and continuously having breakdowns and repairs, and it's just eating us alive," he said. "We're going to have as many rate increases if we keep the junk we've got as if we build a new plant the way I see it."

Last Monday's public hearing was just one step before ground is broken for a new treatment plant. In August, the council voted 3-0 to allow Garrett, as president, to sign an application for a State Revolving Fund loan that is needed to pay the required 20% local match on the $700,000 OCRA grant. On Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 p.m., a second public hearing will be conducted. The hearing originally was scheduled for Oct. 14 but was rescheduled.

The project proposal is due on Oct. 4, while the grant application is due on Nov. 22.

At last month's meeting, Bob Woosley of Heritage Engineering said that, depending on funding, both from the SRF and OCRA, the project could be ready for bid advertisement at the town council's May 2020 meeting, with the bids opened the following month.

During the regular meeting, Councilman Jerry Mackey said the Milltown Events Committee, of which he is a member, was pleased with the annual community festival in August. He said next year's festival will be on Aug. 14 and 15.

Mackey added that the Events Committee will host a couple of Halloween-related events. A Zombie Walk will take place Saturday, Oct. 26, and will require some streets to be blocked, while a Trunk-or-Treat will be Thursday, Oct. 31, behind the town hall. Both events will be from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mackey added that the annual Light Up Milltown festivities will be Saturday, Dec. 7. More details will be announced later.

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