INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Citizens Energy group is digging a massive tunnel that will act as a temporary storage area for the billions of gallons of raw sewage that is currently flowing into waterways in Indianapolis each year.
Fox59 was given an underground tour 250 feet below the surface where fresh air has to be pumped in.
The entire tunnel system will store 250 million gallons of raw sewage upon completion. Even a quarter of an inch of rain forces rainwater and the city’s sewage out of the same pipes and into waterways at more than 130 locations, most of which are in or near downtown.
“The old mentality was dilution is the solution to pollution,” said John Morgan, manager of Citizens Energy special projects group and manager of construction.
Morgan is talking about Indianapolis’ aging combine sewer system that the federal government has said needs to go if the city wants to be in compliance with the Clean Water Act. The city agreed to gradually clean up the sewage problem a few years ago to address health and environmental concerns.
Citizens Energy Group ratepayers will have to pay for the improvements. The utility is asking the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for water and wastewater rate hikes that would begin in 2014 to fund nearly $560 million in system improvements between 2014 and 2015.
If approved, water bills would rise approximately $3 per month and wastewater bills would rise approximately $10 per month in January and another $4 per month in October of 2014.
The funds will pay to improve the water system and support the first phase of the tunnel system. The first deep rock tunnel will extend approximately 8 miles, and it is scheduled to be complete in 2017. Currently, a boring machine is breaking through about 100 feet of rock a day.
The tunnel system will begin near the Indiana State Fairgrounds on the north and end on the south side of Indianapolis.
“It’s about water quality. It’s about what we leave behind for our kids to grow up with and what their kids grow up with,” said Morgan.
Citizens Energy group expects the entire project to be complete in 2025. The estimated cost is $1.4 billion.