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Work on city's 8-mile sewage tunnel gets underway

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Work is starting on an 8-mile-long tunnel under the south side of Indianapolis that is the first major part of a $1.6 billion project aimed at reducing the release of raw sewage into the city's rivers.

The plan calls for crews to bore the 18-foot diameter tunnel about 250 feet underground between a sewage treatment plant on the city's far south side to a location near the White River near downtown. The work is expected to take five years and be followed by four shorter tunnels that will contain water from the city's combined storm and sanitary sewers after storms until it can be treated.

"Any time any significant rainfall occurs, even a quarter of an inch, we're putting raw sewage in the White River and Fall Creek — conditions that we can't tolerate," Carey Lykins, president and CEO of Citizens Energy Group, parent company of the city water utility, told WISH-TV.

Crews have started prep work on digging the shaft for the tunnel and drilling work is expected to begin by late fall after gargantuan boring equipment arrives on 40 semitrailers for assembly, officials announced Wednesday.

The project is required under a 2006 agreement between the city and federal and state environmental agencies to reduce sewage releases into the waterways by 2025.

Los Angeles-based Aecom Technology Corp. was chosen last September for a $25 million contract to manage construction of the sewage overflow tunnel and pump.

When complete, city officials say, the 25 miles of tunnels will be able to store 250 million gallons during and after rainstorms and reduce untreated sewage overflow by at least 95 percent.

Kevin Hardie, executive director of the Friends of the White River preservation group, called the project a significant step.

Money for the project is coming from recent annual hikes in city sewer rates, including a 10.8-percent increase this year and a similar increase planned for 2013.

The drilling work deep underground isn't expected to draw much attention as officials say slight vibrations lasting a few hours or a day are the only thing residents might notice immediately above any work area.

Mayor Greg Ballard said he believed the completed project would make the city's rivers much cleaner and more attractive for recreation and development.

"It's going to put a lot more activities at or near the waterways," Ballard said. "That's the intent so that we can really use it as an economic development asset."

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  • What are the risks to underground water?
    What safeguards ensure raw sewage from this eight mile long tunnel doesn't leach into the aquifer? Might this be a case of "out of sight, out of mind," for the immediate future?

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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