EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — City officials on Thursday released details of an agreement between the city of Evansville and the federal government on a $729 million, 24 ½-year plan to cut wastewater overflows into the Ohio River.
Last week, the city reached an agreement on the plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The plan comes after years of negotiation between the city and EPA, which was sparked by a federal court ruling in 2010 that determined the city of Evansville needed to upgrade its sewer infrastructure to address overflow issues, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.
In older parts of Evansville, a combined sewer systems that collects both wastewater and stormwater overflows during heavy rains or big snow melts, dumping untreated water into the Ohio River, Pigeon Creek and Bee Slough.
About 2 billion gallons of contaminated water makes its way into the Ohio River every year, city officials have said.
The city’s plan would reduce that amount by 98 percent, bringing the total down to about 40 million gallons of contaminated water, each year.
Under the agreement, the city will spend $729 million to upgrade the city’s sewer system infrastructure, improve operations and reduce water pollution, according to a news release.
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said the negotiation process with federal regulators on the plan was contentious.
“There was a lot of give and take and a lot of back and forth,” Winnecke said.
When negotiations began in 2013, the city offered to spend $540 million, but the federal government wanted the city to spend $916 million.
Since it’s an unfunded federal mandate, the $729 million cost will fall on the city’s sewer customers. Their rates already have increased by 68.6 percent over the past three years, and they’re expected to rise again over the next three years.
This spring, the utility is expected to commission a rate study to get a clearer idea about the expected rate hikes for sewer customers, ahead of the 2017 city budget hearings.
The City Council will consider the expected rate hikes.