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

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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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  • Sounds like a band aid
    Even if cost for piping is twice as much, what happens when they have to build another combined sewer overflow? "These overflows, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs), contain not only stormwater but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris. They are a major water pollution concern for the approximately 772 cities in the U.S. that have combined sewer systems." http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/cso/
  • Not utopia
    Well at the rate Carmel is growing you folks up there will have the same problems larger metropolitan cities now have. More crime, crowding and infrastructure problems to solve. More people, more pavement, more runoff, more sewer problems. In ten years it will start to look and feel like a much larger, older, established city like (gasp) Indianapolis. I'm sorry but you can't move away from this, it always follows you eventually.
  • Absolutely
    Well said!
  • I would have attended a meeting ...
    If the CTRWD had notified neighbors about the plan. It didn't. Instead, the CTRWD offered what amounts to a bribe to the church and threatened eminent domain if the church didn't comply. Everyone agrees that there needs to be a solution, but there are many options that don't include above-ground tanks.
  • Carmel priorities
    Yes we seem to have no budget constraints for performing arts, Keystone construction, developer subsidies yet we're willing to build an eyesore in peoples backyards (and nicely visible from Keystone). I'm with Mayor Brainard on this - run a new line. It will be underground and not visible to those with easements.
  • Thanks
    Rick, thanks for pointing that out about Carmelites. We're in the process of editing that out of the article.
  • the real carmel
    I believe Carmel spends boat loads of money on special projects that benefit special groups. Monon and Paladium projects were done without regard to budget or maintenance. Surely Carmel can pay to pipe it to the treatment plant, and do less subsidy of developer's taxes and projects. What if Carmel had great schools and neighborhoods, but stopped the subsidy of more development. Run the waste over to the treatment plant where it belongs.
    • clarification
      Just a couple of points... 1) KOG is Lutheran. Carmelites are Catholic. Using the term Carmelites changes the meaning of the story when speaking of a church. Not being PC, just clarifying. 2) it doesn't sound like the church is the one making the noise. It sounds like two HOA's are causing the commotion. 3) $108,600 for ground with Keystone frontage and easy roundabout access sounds like a low per-acre price. Not to mention, this is a 4.3 acre parcel. Taking that down to a 2.7 will limit future, potentially more lucrative, uses of the space. If the church is going to sell at some point, they have every responsibility to their members to maximize that potential in order to grow their mission funds, etc... 4) It sounds like the tank will be empty 95% of the time.
    • Or???
      They could take the property using eminent domain and save money by not paying the church or building a soccer field and a new driveway. Ctrwd has monthly meetings open to all customers of the district. The meetings are listed and if the customers really cared that much they would show. Ctrwd works hard in every way they can to make sure the customer is put first. Overflows damage the surrounding environment and cost a lot of money every year. There have been many upgrades done through the years to help not send flow to Carmel. Even with the upgrades ctrwd cannot always keep up. I understand how a storage tank could be an eye sore, but has anyone thought to look at other lift stations or storage tanks. Most lift stations are right in the middle of neighborhoods. Some close to schools and soccer fields, and some right in back yards, or at least next to a back yard. We all have to work together to come up with a proper solution. The proposed solution by ctrwd is the best one offered so far.
      • Is it a Secret?
        Isn’t it strange that the Clay Township Regional Waste District hasn’t hosted a public meeting with all of the homeowners that will be impacted? I pointed this out to Drew Williams when I spoke to him yesterday. If this is such a well thought out and beneficial project you would think that they would be seeking publicity.
      • Underhanded Tactics
        Clay Township Waste District boasts about having the lowest sewer rates in the area, but at what cost? These type of tanks are rarely built near residential areas or floodplains for a number of reasons. The Waste District has been less than forthright with the community and the King of Glory Church on a number of issues, with the statement "There will be no odor" being one.
      • Cost Effective?
        If cost is a concern, save money by not building the soccer field and parking lot. The neighbors of King of Glory shouldn't have to look at (or smell) a million-gallon sewage tank.

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