Huntertown Town Council members brushed aside heavy criticism from constituents about their plans to build a sewer plant. But they cant ignore the Indiana Department of Enviromental Management after the agency preliminarily rejected the plant.
IDEMs conditional decision was brief but clear: The Town of Hun- tertown has not demonstrated that a new discharge from a new sanitary wastewater treatment plant, that would result in a significant lowering of water quality in Geller Ditch, is necessary because cost effective measures that would prevent the proposed lowering of water quality are reasonably available by continuing to send their sanitary wastewater to the City of Fort Wayne. Why spend $11.2 million on a sewage plant that will pollute a ditch that feeds into the Eel River?
Huntertown residents have posed this question to town officials, who have said the plant would be more cost-effective for the town and allow more development by allowing more sewage hookups.
But officials with Fort Waynes City Utilities have questioned the finances, saying the town would save money by continuing to send sewage to Fort Wayne for treatment. And town officials may well have underestimated the ongoing costs of operating a sewage plant 24/7.
Further, the towns engineering consultant has developed a plan to allow more hookups by building a holding area that allows wastewater to be stored and released based on water levels.
IDEMs decision indicated that Huntertowns proposal was short on data to prove its plant would not pollute the Geller Ditch, and neighbors have expressed fears the small ditch could easily overflow. Huntertown could spend more money on more consultants to try to turn up such evidence, but that could well be more money wasted if the plan is again rejected.
Under IDEM procedures, the conditional denial of the towns plans begins a 30-day comment period, when residents can tell IDEM their views about building the plant. If the decision is upheld, Huntertown could appeal.
Town Council members too often have not engaged the public in this important decision, working in secret on plans to put the plant on park land and making big decisions with little notice. They need to listen to their constituents – as well as to environmental regulators, who have said the plant isnt worth it.