Massive tunnel system to tackle Indianapolis’ sewage problem ahead of schedule

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A massive tunnel system project that will act as a holding tank for Indianapolis’ raw sewage is ahead of schedule.
Citizens Energy Group and its contractors said if they continue to work at this pace, they could be finished earlier than they had planned which would mean cost-savings and cleaner waterways sooner.

Citizens Energy Group and its contractors are nearly halfway finished with the first of five underground tunnels that will act as storage tanks for much of Indianapolis’ sewage that is currently being spilled into area rivers and streams during and after heavy rainfall. The current system purposely forces the pollution because the system cannot handle the volume of raw sewage.

When it rains, even a quarter of an inch, the sewage flows out of pipes that are mostly located in and around the downtown area. It has long created unsanitary conditions.

The tunnel, that is being bored right now, is 250 feet below the surface. The first tunnel will extend eight miles.

“At this rate of production, if this continues, we will finish this tunnel one year ahead of schedule,” said Carey Lykins, Citizens Energy Group President and CEO.

He continued. “I always thought of that as a third-class problem in a World class city.”

The entire tunnel system will represent a multi-billion dollar investment between now and 2025. It will extend 25 miles. A study conducted on its economic impact reveals it will lead to the creation of many jobs across the country and in Indiana.

“We have 80 to 100 people that work here,” said Stuart Lipofsky, project manager with SKJV Contractors, one of the companies responsible for the massive project.

Citizens Energy Group is asking for a wastewater rate increase of about $14 dollars beginning next year to tackle the financial burden and expand the capacity of two of its wastewater treatment plants. They are waiting on approval that could come in a few months.

“These waterways will be an asset to our community, and it will be something to build upon, not build around,” said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

He said the cleanup could trigger projects beside waterways that are now checkered with warning signs about pollution.

In the meantime, crews just set a record for their speedy work. On average they are boring 200 feet a day.

“It means ratepayers will save money, and this city will reap the benefits sooner than otherwise planned,” said Ballard.

When the tunnel system is completed, it will hold 250 million gallons of sewage, and it will pump it to the wastewater treatment plants when capacity becomes available.