SHIRLEY — Shirley’s wastewater treatment facilities are at risk of dumping raw sewage into the area if the system’s dilapidated pipes aren’t repaired, state officials said.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management recently issued a warning to the Shirley Town Council notifying members the wastewater facility is well over its capacity of .17 million gallons per day, which comes from about 385 households in the town limits. In 2014, the facility’s flow was measured at .283 million gallons per day, or 183 percent of the intended flow.
IDEM has prohibited any additional hook-ups to the sewer until the flow is decreased or facilities are improved.
The warning noted Shirley received its first notice from IDEM in 2013, when the facility was at 90 percent capacity. According to the warning, town officials acknowledged the issues then and assured they would seek funding for a sewer improvement project, to be completed by fall 2015. But that project didn’t happen, the notice states.
However, an improvement project did take place in 2013 and 2014, Town Council chairman Dennis Denney said. The town of Shirley spent about $250,000 on storm sewer improvements, which included separating storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines to prevent storm water from heading into the waste treatment plant.
The town maintains three wastewater treatment ponds, which use gravity to move the wastewater through to the Shirley Drain creek, where the treated water exits.
The sanitary sewer pipes were installed in the 1960s, Denney said. Town employees had the sewer inspected using a video camera line several years ago and discovered the pipe joints are cracked, allowing groundwater and rainwater into the sanitary sewer system. This, in turn, increases the amount of water flowing into the wastewater treatment ponds.
A third of the water coming into the wastewater pipes is from manholes; a third is from lateral lines, which are the sewer lines from structures to the main sewer line; and the remaining third is from water leaking into the main sewer line.
Barry Sneed, IDEM public information officer, said if the town continues to add hook-ups to its wastewater systems, the increase could overtax the treatment plant or cause sewer overflows.
Shirley is now seeking a $500,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to improve the facilities.
Denney said town officials plan to use the funding to replace leaking areas of the sewer pipeline. They hope to disconnect any crossover lines from storm water and fill in manholes that are letting in water.
In addition, town officials want to improve the wastewater treatment plant, which saw upgrades in the 1980s, Denney said. Upgrades could include more high-tech solutions to treating wastewater, including aerating the water with an air-injection system and using UV light to kill bacteria.
The town must chip in about $125,000 in order to be eligible for the grant. In 2016, the town’s general fund, used to pay for everyday expenses, was $492,500.
The town of Shirley, which currently has about 800 residents and about 385 households, has received OCRA funding in the past for storm water improve- ments, said Amy Miller, the town’s grant administrator.