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Carmel residents balk at sewer-overflow tank planned next to church

July 25, 2014

Some Carmel residents are raising a stink in their neighborhood as Clay Township seeks to build an above-ground, million-gallon tank the size of a large one-story home to control sewer overflow during heavy rainfall.

The Clay Township Regional Waste District said the tank is necessary to keep rainwater and residential waste from overflowing the sewer system and ending up in surrounding creeks and properties.

“It is not a septic tank,” Utility Director Drew Williams said. The tank would temporarily hold sewer overflow during the few times of the year the area experiences excessive rainfall.

Williams said the utility company has made an offer of $106,800 to buy 1.6 acres of land from the King of Glory Church near 106th Street and Keystone Parkway. The tank would be south of the church’s building complex and parking lot.

CTRWD also is willing to build a soccer field for the church and repair the church’s driveway.

The deal also includes 50 evergreen trees planted 8 to 10 feet tall to conceal the tank from view, as well as 10 deciduous trees of the church’s choosing. The tank would be equipped with a self-cleaning system and air purification unit.

“There will be no odor,” Williams said. “It will be filtered before it enters the atmosphere.”

Many of the church’s neighbors are concerned about the tank being an eyesore, as well as a stink and safety hazard.

“Currently it seems that the inducements offered by the Clay Township Regional Waste District are blinding some of the congregation,” said Dave Hoffman, president of Millbrook Home Owner Association. Millbrook is a subdivision just west of the church.

“It's their choice, but I can assure you that none of the King of Glory congregation would want this project in their back yard,” Hoffman said.

Contacted by IBJ, King of Glory Church officials declined to comment.

If the church rejects the offer, the utility company could acquire the land through eminent domain, Williams said. But it hopes to avoid that scenario.

“Eminent domain, besides being a more expensive process with attorney fees, the [CTRWD] board does not like to use this power,” Williams said. “These are our customers, and we are working with them to solve a problem.”

In the majority of cases, the two parties will settle with the initial offer so as not to incur additional expenses such as attorney fees, a local attorney familiar with the process told IBJ.

Opponents of CTRWD’s offer are hoping the church rejects the offer so they can financially support the church in the legal battle that would occur if the process goes to eminent domain, said Vince Artale, a neighbor in the area.

Given the impending Aug. 8 deadline the utility company has given the church to respond to the offer, the surrounding residents have been discussing possibly picketing the church starting this Sunday, but nothing has been finalized yet, Artale said.

The King of Glory Church is scheduled to vote on the tank offer Aug. 3.

Artale said he and the Millbrook Woods Home Owner Association have been trying to get the township utility to answer questions on specifics about the tank design since June 18, when first presented with the proposal, but those questions have gone unanswered.

“We’d like to do some research,” Artale said. “What scares us is this is going on with no specificity, no project plan.”

Without concrete design plans or examples of existing tanks, Artale said the church is being bullied by the utility company to make an uninformed decision.

“Clay Township Regional Waste District is not making any substantive written guarantees about odor control, unsightliness, maintenance and replacement of trees, care of the grounds, or maintenance of the tank,” Artale said.

Williams said he has received emails from concerned residents in three different neighborhoods. In addition to Millbrook, he has heard from residents in Glenwood to the east of the church and Jordan Woods to the north.

Detailed designs of the tank won’t be started until the property has been secured, Williams said, “so the level of detail many have asked for is not yet put on paper.”

As far as guarantees go, CTRWD has been working on a commitments agreement with the church that will be part of the final purchase agreement, Williams said.

Currently, sewage from Clay Township flows to the Carmel waste water treatment plant. Clay Township has a contract with the city of Carmel that allows up to 6.2 million gallons of sewer water a day. The typical amount the city receives and prefers is between 1.7 and 2 million a day.

On days of heavy rainfall the flow of waste water pumped to Carmel can exceed seven million gallons a day. Carmel charges the district when the amount of sewage passes its allotment.

The way rainwater gets into the sewer system has not been pinpointed, Williams said, but some common sources are cracks in the pipes and residents routing their sump pumps and rain spouts directly into the sewer system, which is an illegal practice.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the township utility has been exceeding the permissible amount of waste water pumped for at least 10 years.

“The solution they’ve proposed is cheap, but it’s going to impact three neighborhoods, hundreds of homes,” Brainard said. “We’d like to see another pipe, instead of storing it [overflow] in a neighborhood.”

Williams said this was an option they had considered already, but that it was not cost-effective. Running an additional 14,000 feet of pipe to the Carmel waste water treatment plant would require easements from over 25 properties and would be more than double the cost of the tank project, he said.

The Carmel mayor said the city has wanted to merge the two utilities since 1996. CTRWD has resisted merging the two utilities in order to keep rates down for their customers, Williams said.

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