ENR Recognizes Indianapolis for its Innovative Approach to CSO Consent Decree

By: Daniel M. Drewry

Earlier this week, ENR.com posted an interesting article on the City of Indianapolis and its efforts to modify and comply with its Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) Consent Decree, noting that Indy was the first city in the country to modify a CSO consent decree through a combination of value-engineering, incorporation of green approaches, increased efficiencies, and cost savings.  The consent decree was required by the U.S. Department of Justice in order to bring Indianapolis, with a wastewater treatment and sewer system that was averaging 7.8 billion gallons per year of overflow, back in compliance with the Clean Water Act.  Under the original 2006 consent decree, the City had embarked on a twenty year remediation program with a price tag that had ballooned to nearly $2 billion.

In response, the City and its design team took a second look at the consent decree program.  Through a series of design modifications, including the addition of a deep rock tunnel connector and modifying the systems for secondary wastewater treatment, and the implementation of innovative green approaches that seek to absorb water runoff before hitting the treatment plants, the City was able to lower the overall cost of the program by over $400 million and beat the ‘acceptable’ overflow (under the original consent decree) by nearly 200 million gallons per year.  The City’s modified program was approved by a federal court in December, which according to the Department of Justice was a highly unusual move.  For the complete article, go to: http://goo.gl/02UTI

While those in the Indianapolis area are certainly aware of the CSO problems and some aspects of the proposed fix (e.g. the deep rock tunnel), the article serves as nice recognition for the City’s willingness to think outside the box – something not all public owners are good at.  From a practical standpoint, it marks a major piece of work for the local construction community for years to come.