$32M in sewage works bonds OK’d for two projects: Culvert under downtown Bloomington, wastewater treatment plant capacity expansion

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council approved $32 million in sewage works revenue bonds, to help pay for two major projects.

One is a $23-million expansion and modernization project for the city’s Dillman Road wastewater treatment plant. The capacity of the plant will be increased by 25 percent one-third, from 15 million gallons a day to 20 million gallons a day.

The expansion is needed because the plant has, on an annual basis, consistently exceeded 90-percent of its designed flow rate of 15 million gallons. The exceedances were noted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in 2016.

According to the city’s director of utilities Vic Kelson, the expansion should give the plant enough capacity to handle increases in population projected through about 2035.

The other project to be financed by the sewage revenue bonds is an $11-million renovation of the stormwater culvert that runs under downtown Bloomington, from the western edge of the Indiana University between Kirkwood Avenue and 6th Street. The open stream that flows across the campus is known as the “Jordan River.”

The replacement cross sections of the stormwater tunnel will measure 24 feet by 5 feet and and 20 feet by 5 feet. That’s a capacity increase for the 100-year-old stormwater tunnel. It’s described in the staff memo accompanying the legislation as “undersized” for the amount of water that runs through it during heavy rains. An emergency repair of the tunnel roof, under the intersection of 3rd and Lincoln streets, was done several years ago, according to the memo.

The part of the tunnel to be reconstructed is about 1,850 feet long, about six football fields. Bids for the work are scheduled to be opened on Nov. 23 at the utilities service board meeting, which starts that day at 5 p.m.

The stream that flows across the IU campus and eventually under downtown Bloomington has been known for decades as the “Jordan River.” But that moniker could be changed sometime soon.

IU’s president, Michael McRobbie, has recommended that the name of the university’s seventh president, David Starr Jordan, be removed from several Bloomington campus landmarks. Jordan served as IU’s president from 1885 to 1891. The push to remove Jordan’s name is based on his conspicuous role in the eugenics movement.

The Dillman wastewater treatment plant project is already in progress. Up to now the project has been paid for from cash on hand. Proceeds from the bond and revenues from wastewater fees paid by customers will pay for the rest.

The city council approved a sewer rate increase last year that incorporated funding for the expansion project.

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