Jun 15, 2005

Sewer Overflow Concerns Indianapolis Residents

As heavy rains hit the Midwest, Indianapolis, Ind. residents smell a problem. According to an article in the Indianapolis Star , more than 150 gallons of raw sewage, industrial waste and storm water was released into local waterways after recent rains.
The Indianapolis Department of Public Works issued a three-day sewage overflow warning to keep residents from drinking from or swimming in local rivers and creeks, but many residents are concerned about the recurring problem. Many of the sewers that run under the city are more than 100 years old, and overflow situations occur 60 to 65 times per year, creating hazards such as disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites.
While many people are affected only by the unpleasant smell, people with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to the contaminated water. Even in dry weather, many of the streams and rivers are unsuitable for drinking or swimming, as storm runoff from lawns and parking lots carries chemicals, animal waste and other contaminants.
While newer sewers in the city carry solid waste and storm water in separate pipes, some of the older sewers carry both storm water and raw sewage. In dry conditions, sewage from the older pipes is diverted to the wastewater treatment plant, but even slight rainfall can cause the system to overflow, causing the storm water and sewage to escape into waterways.
In an effort to solve this problem, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson's administration has drafted a 20-year, $1 billion sewer improvement plan. This plan is in the final stages of approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but some phases of the project have already begun.