News Feature | February 12, 2016

Utility Mergers Boost Expansion Efforts, Decrease Financial Burden

Source: Aerzen

As demand grows larger and infrastructure grows older, utilities are often forced to expand, upgrade, and renovate to keep operations running smoothly.

But upgrades often come with a high price tag, and even when improvements are a necessity, the money isn’t always available.

One utility in Indiana has found a potential solution.

By joining forces with the neighboring town of Schererville, the city of St. John can now fund an essential $7.5 million dollar project, which aims to rectify increased wastewater expulsion, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The expansion is much needed. Peak hourly wastewater flows during longer rain events are exceeding capacity, and the flow equalization facility can't moderate peak flow rates. St. John currently shares 20 percent of Schererville's wastewater treatment plant, but they are already nearing all of the design capacity average. The utility has simply outgrown its space.

"The current design average capacity is limited by the 8.75-million gallon per-day capacity of the aeration tanks," said John Phipps, principal of NIES Engineering, reports the Tribune. “While future increases to the design average capacity may require future construction, current available capacity exists to increase the average flow by 58 percent."

Projects planned after the two utilities merge include a new lift station to go along with a 36-inch water line St. John installed to keep up with growth. New clarifiers are also planned, which would be built on the northeast corner of Schererville's waste treatment plant. These will separate solid waste sediment.

Collaboration between the two utilities has already begun. Recently, utility boards from both communities met in a joint study session to discuss increased flow and possible solutions, reports the Tribune.

The plan to consolidate the two city utilities into one has been in the works for a long time.

"This is the third leg of a plan we started almost 10 years ago," Schererville Town Manager Bob Volkmann said in the Tribune story. "We knew we would face an increase in average daily use, so we'll figure out how to address it. We value our relationship with St. John."

Merging the two utilities seems to have been a necessary step to meeting the cities’ demands.

St. John Town Manager Steve Kil said the town went to "the ultimate we could" to keep ahead of increasing flows, according to the Tribune.