Cleaning and video inspections of sewer lines and manholes known to have the biggest issues in Brownstown have been completed.
More than 60 residents submitted letters of support for a sanitary sewer improvement grant application, explaining whether they have had sewer issues or not.
Now, it’s time to submit the application for the $450,000 grant through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
Shannon McLeod, who works for Priority Project Resources of Greensburg and has been the town’s grant writer for 18-plus years, recently received approval from the Brownstown Town Council to submit a letter of intent.
By the end of next week, she said OCRA will let the town know if it will review the application and set up a site visit.
If so, McLeod would continue to work with Scott Hunsucker, superintendent of Brownstown Wastewater Utility, to get the full application together by the June 10 deadline. Grants will be awarded Aug. 1.
If Brownstown receives the grant, $300,000 would come from the town’s sewer improvement fund so work could begin on the Priority 1 sewer lines and manholes and as much of the Priority 2s as possible.
“If we get the grant, that will get what we feel is the worst of the worst,” Hunsucker said. “We’re still going to have three-quarters of it out there, but it’s not as in bad of shape. Hopefully, that gets us to where we can start saving more back, a loan gets paid off and we can finish the rest of the collection system.”
McLeod said OCRA receives about $26 million each year from the federal government to divvy out to communities that bring in eligible projects that meet a national objective and are competitive with others.
She said there used to be two grant rounds per year, but there has only been one the past three years. It’s now back to two cycles — one in the spring and one in the fall.
In the event an applicant is unsuccessful in the spring, it can reapply in the fall.
“Just because you apply, it’s not a sure thing you will receive it,” McLeod said. “But this project has got a lot of bells and whistles that they are looking for.”
The type of grant Brownstown is pursuing requires a lot of upfront work.
First, the town hired Wessler Engineering of Indianapolis to do the cleaning and video inspections of the sanitary sewer system. That included smoke testing of the sewer lines, manhole inspections and pole cam, where they look 150 to 200 feet up into each manhole.
Wastewater utility workers also kept track of the cleaning they performed. Based on those logs and Wessler Engineering’s data, they came up with the Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 sewer lines.
Hunsucker then sent out more than 500 letters to town residents seeking their comments. The responses he received are important because they back up the data gathered by the wastewater utility and Wessler Engineering and could help the town land the grant.
Hunsucker said residents who described issues in a particular area of town matched up with the problem areas identified by the wastewater utility.
The town’s sanitary sewer system was installed in the 1950s. A lot of those sewer lines have been infiltrated with tree roots or are just old and breaking down, McLeod said.
“Not only are you getting the sewer water in there, but you are getting surface water, and it’s getting into pipes and going down to the (wastewater treatment) plant and wreaking havoc,” she said.
“We’ve got to get these sewer lines and the manholes where water is getting in in better condition so that we can limit the amount of water that’s going down to the plant so that your plant’s life — the mechanics and all — lives a little longer,” she said.
Hunsucker said the plant is designed to handle 670,000 gallons of normal flow and averages 450,000. But during big rain events, more than 2 million gallons flow through.
“That’s happening more frequently than not, and that’s wearing down your pumps and your lift stations, and it’s wearing down everything out there at the plant,” McLeod said. “It’s making it hard for (Hunsucker) to control the dilution of what’s going into the streams. It could potentially get you in trouble with IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management).”
The grant is for the first part of a multiple-phase rehabilitation project that has a price tag of $4.1 million.
If the first phase gets approved for grant funding, McLeod said the second phase would not be eligible for grant funding from OCRA until seven years transpires. That could be bonded, and the town could seek grants from other sources.
Work during the first phase could help the town determine the scope of work that needs to be done in the future at the wastewater treatment plant.