FORT WAYNE – The state has tentatively denied Huntertowns request to build a new $11.2 million wastewater treatment plant.
In addition to citing pollution concerns with the proposed plant, officials from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said Tuesday the town has an adequate, working system already in place with Fort Wayne.
Huntertown officials, in response to rapid growth and substantial rate hikes from Fort Wayne City Utilities, were hoping to build and operate their own plant. They planned to break ties with Fort Wayne City Utilities, which has provided the town with sewer service since 1988. Huntertown contracts with City Utilities, paying $952,139 annually to process its waste. That contract will expire in April.
The proposed plant would discharge about 575,000 gallons of treated water a day into Geller Ditch and Eel River.
Steve Roush, a representative of the IDEM permit department, said Huntertown did not justify an immediate need to build a new plant.
There are other cost-effective measures available to Huntertown, Roush said. That includes an option for Huntertown to remain with City Utilities, but to build an equalization basin that would expand capacity for the preapproved 1,101 sewer connections that will be added to the system within the next 10 years.
Derek Frederickson, one of the towns engineering consultants, had submitted that option in November at the IDEMs request.
But Frederickson said at the time that was not a viable option the town was considering.
Roush said he realizes Huntertown officials would prefer to build their own plant and disconnect from City Utilities.
Huntertown is trying to estimate what the city of Fort Wayne would do, but we must base our decision on what we know; we cannot rely on predictions, Roush said.
Two weeks ago, Huntertown officials extended a land purchase option to buy 26 acres on Hathaway Road where they hope to build the new plant. The option gives the town an additional six months to buy the site for $393,500.
City Utilities spokeswoman Mary Jane Slaton said Fort Wayne believes the IDEM has taken appropriate action with the conditional denial as it will give residents yet another opportunity to comment.
Slayton said the conditional denial reiterates what some Huntertown residents have been saying – that a continued relationship with City Utilities is an affordable option and that further environmental degradation that would result from a Huntertown sewage treatment plant is not necessary.
Recent letters to Huntertown requesting a meeting to discuss the issue have yet to receive a reply, Slaton said.
The public now has the chance to weigh in on the IDEMs decision.
The state will host a 30-day public comment period and issue a final decision. At that time, Huntertown can file an appeal.
Huntertown could also reapply for the plant permit if circumstances change, Roush said. That could include a situation where the recommended plan is no longer cost-effective, or if Huntertown is able to supply more precise data, he said.
Part of the problem may be timing, Roush said. There is just no certainty with the estimates that were submitted with the proposal.
Huntertown Town Council President Jim Fortman could not say whether the town plans to appeal.
Council members will confer with their attorney and engineers to determine their next move, he said.
I have no problem with their decision, Fortman said. I know they have a set of rules they have to abide by and I respect that. But I will, as a citizen, forward my comments to IDEM.