State engineering group recognizes Huntington for wastewater efforts

Two projects by the City of Huntington, both designed to keep wastewater from flowing into streams, have earned recognition from a state engineering association.

Anthony Goodnight, the city's director of public works and engineering services, presented the engineering excellence awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies Indiana to members of the Huntington Common Council during their meeting on Tuesday, March 14.

Construction of a 2.25 million gallon holding tank at the city's water pollution control plant, known as the Rabbit Run project, was runner-up for state project of the year and has been nominated for a national award, Goodnight said.

A second project, installation of 1.5 miles of sewer mainly along Frederick Street, was a state finalist.

The Rabbit Run storage tank was designed by Greeley and Hansen, an engineering company headquartered in Chicago, IL, and cut the original cost estimate for the project in half.

The goal of the project was to solve a problem that occurs during heavy rains, when more wastewater comes in to the treatment plant than it can handle. The excess wastewater would bypass the plant and flow directly into streams.

Tracking devices were installed on the city's combined sewers to find out just how much wastewater was bypassing the plant, a figure that would then determine the size of the holding tank needed to temporarily contain that overflow. Working with those figures, Goodnight said, the city planned to build two 5 million gallon holding tanks on 25 acres of land it purchased across the river from the treatment plant. The excess wastewater would be pumped from the plant across the river to the holding tanks and, when the plant could handle the additional flow, pumped back across the river to the plant. The cost of that project was estimated at $26 million.

A subsequent review of the project, Goodnight said, found that the small solar batteries that powered the tracking devices were dying because of a lack of sunlight during heavy rains, artificially inflating the amount of wastewater flowing into streams. Larger, more powerful batteries were purchased, and the new figures showed that the city could handle the overflow by building one 2.25 million holding tank on ground at the treatment plant.

“For about $1,000 in batteries, it saved us about $13 million,” Goodnight said.

The $5.9 million Frederick Street project was designed by Lochmueller Group, based in Evansville. It included 1.5 miles of new sewer main and about three-quarters of a mile of trail. The new sewer line captures overflows from the combined wastewater/stormwater line and carries the overflow to the treatment plant instead of allowing it to flow into the river.

“Those two CSOs (combined sewer overflows) have not overflowed since these were put in,” Goodnight said.

In other business, the council passed on first reading changes to an ordinance covering nuisance violations and sidewalk regulations. The ordinance was introduced last month and included a requirement that all newly constructed homes include sidewalks, with no provision to appeal that requirement. It was tabled after two residents asked that the current appeals process be retained. The revised ordinance includes a process for appeals.

It passed on a 6-0 vote, with Council President Joe Blomeke absent, despite some reservations expressed by Councilman Richard Strick. Strick noted that one of the goals of the city's comprehensive plan is to improve its “walkability” for residents of all ages and abilities, and that allowing new construction to omit sidewalks works against that goal.

“I think there should be minimal exceptions, but I think there should be some,” Councilman Seth Marshall said.