Medora applying for planning grant to upgrade utility services



Medora’s sewer system was installed in the 1960s.

Steve Ingle, who manages the sewer and water departments in the small southwestern Jackson County town, said the system comprised of clay pipes has lived its life.

Since it’s a sanitary sewer, nothing should be going in there except sanitation out of people’s home and businesses, said Jon Craig, business development manager for Midwestern Engineers Inc. of Loogootee.

“Clay tile inherently has a lot of cracks the older it gets,” Craig said. “That just allows more groundwater to get in.”

Ingle said some sections of the system are clogged because of tree roots.

“I think a lot of what we probably have going on is people that have sump pumps hooked to the sewer, they have downspouts hooked into the sewer, which is not all supposed to be,” he said.

“They are trying to get rid of their water and never should have been put there to start with,” Craig said.

A master utility study for water, wastewater and stormwater planning was created for the town, and Midwestern Engineers and Mike Kleinpeter of Kleinpeter Consulting Group LLC of Whiteland are helping officials apply for a planning grant to upgrade the utility services.

Kleinpeter talked to the town council during its meeting in December and left business cards for residents to send him stories and pictures showing issues in their homes because of the town’s utility system. That way, he can include those in the grant application.

The council added two new members at the beginning of this month, so Craig and senior marketing executive Julie Berry wanted to touch base with them at their recent meeting.

“(Kleinpeter) needs some war stories. He needs to know what the current needs are with the utilities,” Craig said. “He would love to have letters from people that are affected by stormwater problems, by sewage backups, by (inflow and infiltration) problems, those kinds of things.”

Ingle said now would be a prime time to take pictures because of flooding around town from recent rainfall. Berry agreed.

“A picture says a thousand words, so I’m betting that you’ve got some stormwater issues going on right now as we speak,” she said. “Some pictures and some letters from people who have had basement backups or anything like that going on or … if there’s anything dangerous or anything else, it would be good for Mike to have that information so he can make a strong case for a grant.”

The grant is worth up to $50,000, and the match for the town would be around 10%, Craig said.

“The planning grant would be used to develop a project plan for all three utilities looking forward,” he said. “There are mandates now for utilities. As you do work and you renew permits, those mandates slowly but surely kick in for the utility side, so there are things that need to be done to get you squared away to make sure you’re in compliance moving forward.”

The newest regulations are courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency funneled down through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Indiana Finance Authority, Craig said.

“Our General Assembly is really paying attention to water and wastewater utilities right now. There are a lot of bills introduced every year right now that are affecting the way we operate utilities,” he said.

“They’ve been talking a lot about asset management for water in particular, and there’s going to be some grant funding that comes probably available for that similar to the Community Crossings model where depending upon your population what your match would be,” Berry added.

Community Crossings is a state initiative that provides funding for road paving and other work. Medora received that grant for the first time in 2019.

A certified validator also is needed, and Berry said Medora may be able to partner with neighboring places so it doesn’t cost anything.

“Every other year, that validation has to be independent, so Steve could do it on the even year, and on the odd year, it would have to be done independent,” Craig said.

Ingle said with the recent rainfall, he pumped 400,000 gallons to the lagoons in one day. On a normal day, it’s only 40,000 gallons. In the dry summer, the average was 26,000 gallons.

“At some point, IDEM will notice those peaks when you report them and will force you to do (an agreed order),” Craig said. “What they can do is issue a sewer ban, where you can’t have new connections to the sewer system, which you don’t want. You want to be somewhat proactive in how you manage that.”

Ingle said smoke testing needs to be done.

“I figure we have pumps, downspouts, probably open sewers, you can really tell. When the river is out, it’s really bad, and that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.

Craig said Ingle told him the water system is in the best shape, but a lot of work is needed on the wastewater and stormwater sides.

“When you live in a low area like you do, I know you have a lot of trouble with (inflow and infiltration) and water getting into your sewer system that shouldn’t be there,” Craig said. “That should be taken care of through stormwater management, and the more we can do to separate those two looking forward would be something that would certainly be to the town’s best interest.”

Councilman Jim Davers said he thinks the town needs a second lift station. Craig said that would be evaluated as part of the overall study.

“I know they cost a lot of money. I realize that,” Davers said of lift stations. “I know we’ll have to get a grant to do it, but I think it’s something we ought to look into.”

If Medora is awarded the planning grant, the town council would prioritize work that needs to be done.

Craig said the grant could open doors to pursue up to a $700,000 grant for fixes and implementation to work on the system’s issues.

“We need it, for sure,” new council President Jerry Ault said. “We’re taking on too much water.”

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Medora residents who have experienced water, wastewater or stormwater problems, including sewage backups, inflow and infiltration issues or basement backups, should email their stories and photos to Mike Kleinpeter at [email protected]. They also may be mailed to Kleinpeter Consulting Group LLC, P.O. Box 37, Whiteland, IN 46184.


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