SHIRLEY — It’s an issue that’s been weighing on town leaders’ minds for at least 10 years.
Shirley’s sewer pipes are aging, and the fix is costly, estimated at $2 million, which is nearly four times the town’s entire 2017 budget of $530,000.
Cracks in pipe joints in the sewer system allow rainwater to seep into the wastewater pipes, which then taxes the town’s lagoon-style wastewater treatment plant.
Now, the Shirley Town Council is pursuing a $2 million improvement project to repair sewer pipes and upgrade the wastewater treatment plant.
Town officials plan to seek a $1.5 million Indiana State Revolving Fund loan and a $550,000 Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant to fund the improvements.
The Shirley Town Council on Saturday held a public hearing regarding its application for the loan.
The plan must be approved by the state before the improvements can move forward.
Town officials will be notified in October if they have been selected for the $550,000 OCRA grant.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2018, said council president Dennis Denney.
The improvement project is dependent upon receiving the grant and loan funding, Denney said.
The $1.5 million low-interest loan, paid over 20 years, will increase Shirley households’ wastewater bills, but officials won’t know by how much until the town completes a rate study, officials said.
A second public hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. July 1 for residents to address the council with questions or concerns.
Plans to repair the system come after the Indiana Department of Environmental Management last year issued a warning saying Shirley’s wastewater treatment facilities were at risk of dumping raw sewage into the area if the system’s dilapidated pipes, which were installed in the 1960s, weren’t repaired. The department also prohibited the town from connecting any additional households to the sewer system.
The proposed project will repair about 10,000 feet of sewer pipe with a process called curing in place, in which a lining is inserted into the pipe and cured with resin to eliminate leaks, said Lou Savka, engineer with Triad Associates, Inc., which prepared the project plans.
Plans also call for added features to the wastewater lagoon to increase its efficiency, including an aeration system, a UV light system to kill bacteria and a rock filtration system, officials said.
While several improvement projects have taken place in the last decade, the town of about 800 residents never had the cash to take on a major project, despite several warnings from IDEM that repairs were needed, Denney said.
He acknowledged it’s a costly project for the small town to take on.
“It’s not something we want to do, but it’s something we need to do,” he said.
Beginning in 2013, when the wastewater facility was operating at 90 percent capacity, the town invested about $250,000 in storm sewer improvements, which included separating storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines to help prevent storm water from heading into the waste treatment plant.
Last year’s ban from IDEM came after the state regulatory agency issued a warning to the Shirley Town Council notifying members the wastewater facility was well over its capacity of .17 million gallons per day, which came 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 officials warned the wastewater treatment lagoons could overflow and leak raw sewage into the area if more households or businesses continued to be connected to the sewer lines.
A second public hearing regarding the $550,000 Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant the town of Shirley seeks to help fund a $2 million sewer and wastewater improvement project will be held at 8:30 a.m. July 1 at Shirley Town Hall, 409 Main St.
For more information, contact Shirley Town Hall at (765) 738-6561.