Wastewater Customers Decry ASU Plant Expansion At Tuesday Hearing

Dec 15, 2015

West Lafayette residents at last month's public hearing regarding ASU's proposed rate hike.
Credit Sarah Fentem / WBAA

10:00 p.m. Tuesday Update:

Some Tippecanoe County residents are hoping the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will hear them when they say a utility company’s expansion plan is bad news for the environment.

Private wastewater utility company American Suburban Utilities, which provides service to many residents on northwest of West Lafayette, has submitted a permit application that proposes to more than double the capacity of its Carriage Estates Treatment Plant, a move residents are opposing on both environmental and more pragmatic grounds.

IDEM has offered preliminary approval of the permit, which ASU says is necessary because of the area’s growing population. Still, the state’s environmental watchdog took public comment on the plan at Harrison High School Tuesday night.

IDEM’s Paul Higgenbotham says given the information the agency has, the expansion looks like it will clear all regulatory hurdles…but a hearing could affect that decision.

"They would have to come to us with information that we do not have that would show our decisions and moving forward in this permit would not meet the regulatory requirements in the Clean Water Act," he says.

Residents are hoping their comments will do the trick. Speakers at the public hearing Tuesday evening brought up everything from the concentrated waste they say is contaminating the neighborhood’s groundwater aquifers to potential property value losses attributed to increased noise and smell.

ASU customer Alayne Sundstrom is concerned about the water level in Indian Creek, which receives the plant’s treated wastewater. Sundstrom says the waterway doesn’t have enough water in it to carry and dilute the plant’s effluent.

"I think I’m going to start sending pictures to IDEM every day of the water level just above the discharge pipes just so they know how low it is every day," Sundstrom says. 'I’ve seen for myself feces, toilet paper other products in the pasture when the water level goes down."

IDEM is accepting public comment until December 29. 

Earlier:

West Lafayette residents this evening are planning to protest a local sewage company’s plans to expand one of its facilities, arguing the measure will turn the Tippecanoe County’s Indian Creek into a river of pure, albeit treated, waste.

The hearing is the latest battle in the war between American Suburban Utilities and residents on the county’s far west side, who have been fighting the private utility provider’s planned expansion and consequent rate increases for more than a year.

The company hopes to more than double the capacity of its Carriage Estates treatment plant to keep up with population growth and increased usage in the area. A preliminary staff review from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management approved the expansion plans, but residents such as ASU customer Janet Yaninek hope to change the agency’s mind this evening.

"This particular creek, Indian Creek, is small," Yaninek says. "It does run dry during certain periods in the year, sometimes the water in that creek is effluent, and that’s all it is, it’s pure effluent, it’s not diluted."

Last month, a public hearing regarding ASU’s proposed twofold rate increase, which would partly fund the expansion, drew close to 200 people.