Huntertown has received preliminary state approval to build a $14.2 million wastewater treatment plant on Hathaway Road.
The construction permit issued Tuesday is one of two that must be approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management before Huntertown can proceed. The second – called a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit – is still under review.
"The town has selected a sewage treatment process that has proven to perform well in cold climates, is easy to maintain, minimizes operational expenses, and most importantly, meets the stringent limitations set by the state for water quality," Derek Frederickson, project engineer for the facility, said in a statement Thursday.
"This wastewater treatment plant will produce one of the highest quality discharges in Indiana while implementing readily available and proven wastewater technologies."
IDEM’s preliminary approval of the construction permit includes several conditions. Huntertown must: obtain all necessary permits, including zoning, before construction; provide advance notice to the state of the startup date; take immediate corrective action to deal with pollution or nuisance conditions; install additional facilities if the proposed plant turns out to be inadequate or unable to meet state and federal standards; and obtain a modified permit if it makes any changes or additions.
Huntertown’s Utility Service Board president said the approval is a huge win for the town.
"This is not only good for our citizens, but also for the region as it will alleviate some of the burden on our rivers caused by the overloaded and antiquated combined sewer system in this area," President Andrew Conner said. "What’s more, this innovative project will help to keep wastewater bills low for our utility customers."
Currently, Huntertown’s sewage is pumped to Fort Wayne and treated by City Utilities without a contract after Huntertown chose not to renew its long-standing agreement last year.
In 2012, IDEM rejected Huntertown’s original request to build a treatment plant because the discharge of treated water would pollute the Eel River. In May, the town submitted a revised plan that calls for discharging wastewater at another point along the river.
Though the town received a construction permit, it does not yet have a discharge permit or funding for the project, City Utilities spokesman Frank Suarez said.
"We have played a vital role by providing excellent service and assisting area towns with growth, including Huntertown, which was the fastest-growing town in northeast Indiana while being served by City Utilities, and it’s all about economic development," Suarez said.
"Most developers choose Fort Wayne because of quality service, lower rates and the ability to serve their multi-million-dollar housing developments today, as opposed to several years down the road. They should not be forced to wait for several years on a risky, unnecessary and expensive sewer operation in Huntertown," Suarez said.
Appeals of the construction permit must be submitted by Sept. 5. Mail to the Office of Environmental Adjudication-Indiana Government Center North, 100 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46204, or fax to 317-233-9372.
A different office within IDEM reviews NPDES permits. The department usually issues a tentative approval or denial to allow 30 days for public comments before issuing a final decision.