City sewer project nears halfway mark

People traveling along East U.S. 50 in Seymour may be wondering what is being constructed in the farm field next to Aldi.

No, it’s not Target, Meijer or any other retail store or restaurant or even a housing subdivision, but what’s going in will lead to future economic development and the overall growth of the city, local officials say.

Workers from Atlas Excavating of West Lafayette are installing new sewer infrastructure extending the collection system south along North County Road 975 East behind The Home Depot to East County Road 340 North. The line then will go west to South O’Brien Street, just south of Silgan Plastics.

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From there, it will turn north and flow to Freeman Avenue, go west again and end up dumping into the main sewer line on South Walnut Street on its way to connecting with an existing line that would carry it to the city’s water pollution control facility.

When all is said and done, there will be 6 miles of new sewer pipe in an area where there is no city sewer system in place, said project foreman Lonnie Nowling with the Seymour Water Pollution Control facility.

That breaks down to 16,000 feet of gravity sewer and 17,000 feet of force main with pipes ranging in size from 8 inches to 36 inches, Nowling said.

Pipe was delivered to the city July 31, 2018, and has been stored on property donated to the city by Silgan for the project.

“Sixty-four trucks is what it took to complete the delivery of the pipe,” Nowling said.

The overall cost of the new sewer system is $15.5 million, but the payoff is the prospect of new commercial, industrial and residential development in an area that has been designated a federal Opportunity Zone. An Opportunity Zone provides federal tax incentives to developers for private investment in low-income communities.

Besides the sewer, the city also is putting a new road in the area, extending Burkart Boulevard south and connecting it to Airport Road on the city’s west side, allowing traffic to bypass U.S. 50 to get to the interstate. That extension includes a railroad overpass.

Construction on the Southeast Interceptor Project is reaching the halfway mark, and the system will be up and running by January 2020, Nowling said. That is if there are no major problems or delays.

Heavy rain this winter has hurt some, but workers have continued to make progress even with Seymour’s high water table. In some places along the route, workers are placing pipe more than 30 feet underground.

“They’ve pushed right through it,” Nowling said of the weather. “The job right now is at about 48 percent complete. I think they’re making great time.”

The project also includes construction of a new regional lift station, which is underway on East County Road 340 North. Mitchell and Stark Construction of Medora was contracted for that work, Nowling said.

Once it’s up and working, the new lift station, which has three 100-horsepower pumps and its own generator, will eliminate the use of seven of the city’s existing lift stations. Those seven are the most frequently visited by the department because of problems, Nowling said.

“Especially the Hoevener and Ashwood (subdivisions) lift stations,” he said. “We visited those lift stations a total of over 300 times last year.”

By reducing the number of lift stations from seven to one, the sewer system and department will be more efficient and the city will save money, Nowling said.

Doug Gregory with the Seymour Water Pollution Control facility said the lift station is around 80 percent complete. The section of the sewer line that is force main from the lift station to Freeman Avenue is nearly complete. Work on the last section from Freeman Avenue to Walnut Street likely will start this summer, Gregory said.

Nowling said the newly installed force line has passed air pressure testing.

Not only will the project add up to 9.2 million gallons a day of sewer capacity on the south side of Seymour, it will relieve pressure off of the existing sewer system on the east side, where a self-imposed sewer ban had been in place because of capacity issues.

The ban prevented all building starts in that area.

The east side had reached a 90 percent sewer capacity, and the sewer ban was implemented to keep the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from placing a ban on the whole city, Gregory said.

That ban has since been lifted since construction of the project began.

Right now, there is no notice of any new development coming into the city because of the new sewer infrastructure, but it’s only a matter of time, Gregory said.

“This is going to open it up, so if somebody wants to come in and build a new subdivision or a factory wants to come in and build by the interstate or make any improvements, they can do it,” he said.

One of the things Gregory would like to see happen is more affordable housing.

“That’s what I think our workforce needs to get people to come live and work here, and that will help the economy,” he said.

“This had to happen if we want Seymour to grow,” Nowling added.

The project has resulted in some crop damage along the sewer route, but the city reimbursed those farmers for the damage, Nowling said.

Although some residents have complained about the disruption and inconvenience of construction traffic, Gregory said it’s not the only work being done in the area.

Indiana American Water is having water lines installed nearby at the same time.

Nowling said he expects Atlas to begin doing cleanup work in the completed areas of the force main this week.