New Haven will move forward with a $23.5 million plan to eliminate sewer overflows caused by excessive rainwater or melting snow.
The project will cost $1.8 million annually over the next 20 years. Although sewer rates are expected to rise, the exact numbers are yet to be determined, city officials said.
The plan was approved by City Council members Tuesday.
In May 2011, torrential rainfall hit Allen County resulting in more than 50 New Haven residents reporting sewer backups in their basements or homes.
The city pumps its wastewater to Fort Wayne City Utilities for treatment, but experienced sewer backups because Fort Waynes lines were also overloaded.
The plan would allow city workers to retain, treat and release overflows at a New Haven treatment plant, set for construction in about eight or nine years. Estimated costs include plant operation and maintenance expenses.
We cant fix a lot of our problems until (Fort Wayne) fixes theirs, Mayor Terry McDonald said.
City Utilities officials complain that New Haven has too much infiltration of stormwater, which floods the pipes, McDonald said. That may be true but we pay to treat all of the wastewater sent to Fort Wayne, McDonald said.
In 2011, New Haven paid $1.5 million to City Utilities for treating wastewater, followed by $1.2 million in 2012.
This year the city had paid $1.2 million by August.
New Haven has absorbed five rate increases from City Utilities since 2006 and has not passed on those hikes to residents and businesses, McDonald said.
We cannot continue to absorb the increases, McDonald said.
Fort Wayne consultant Ted Nitza said City Utilities has strived to work with New Haven in the past, and agreed with McDonald that New Haven should not absorb increases.
Absorbing those increases prevents them from maintaining and improving their system, Nitza said. Its important to keep rates comparable and fair and still maintain the system.
Fort Wayne is in the midst of an 18-year plan to reduce the number of overflows into the rivers, Nitza said.
We need New Haven to work together with us on this plan, Nitza said.
The two cities could partner and synchronize their plans, benefiting all involved, but New Haven has not shared their plans with City Utilities, Nitza said.
We are interested in helping, but we need them to work with us, he said.
A typical residential sewer bill in New Haven is about $57 a month now; that amount would increase to $87 if the city was to take on a project that cost $14.5 million, according to the citys financial projections.
We are striving for the lowest possible sewer rates with this plan, said Keith Schlegel, the citys director of engineering.
The first five years of the plan would be spent implementing measures that would decrease infiltration into the stormwater system, Schlegel said.
Measures would include testing the lines to find improper connections to sewer lateral connections such as downspouts and drains, he said.
But such testing will not indicate if a sump pump is hooked into the sanitary sewer lines. That can only be determined by inspecting the residence, Schlagel said.
Other options considered such as high-capacity pumps were not viable because Fort Wayne does not have the capacity to accept the overflows, Schlegel said.
The project can be revisited and changed as needed every five years, Schlegel said.
The deadline for submitting the federally mandated plan is Monday, he said.