ELWOOD, Ind. — ELWOOD — In a critical meeting June 3, the Elwood City Council unanimously voted to approve a rate hike for water and sewer utility services.
The rate increase is unpopular among both ratepayers and officials, but there seemed to be a consensus and a realization that the increase needed to happen. Elwood still operates under a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO), a water treatment system that was outlawed under the Clean Water Act because of the negative environmental impact they create.
Having been built in the 1940s and with its newest equipment coming from the 1970s, Elwood’s system is even more antiquated than some other still-extant CSOs around the country.
The current system has to go, and while officials like Mayor Ron Arnold and City Council members Tim Roby and Todd Jones said they are loathe to raise utility rates, they agree the increases must happen to bring the city to code.
The solution that comes with the rate increases is a brand-new water treatment facility to be built starting 2014 and expected to be operational by 2015. This is what city officials have dubbed Phase 2 of the upgrade.
Phase 1 must come first, and involves making the current water treatment equipment up to date with state code. Phase 1, a $7-million project, was approved June 3, with estimations the average utility user will see sewer rates go from about $28.33 a month to $34.99 a month and water rates go from about $21.56 a month to $26.67 a month.
As Arnold said, the city cannot just tell state inspectors to “wait until we have the new plant.” And that is the reason for Phase 1 increases.
“We had an IDEM inspection in June 2012 which cited a dozen violations, each with penalties, and it was going to be significant. We were getting ready to be fined and we had a choice: accept the penalties or fix the problems. Well, it wasn’t much of a choice.”