Fort Wayne seeks $22 million state loan to accelerate pace of wastewater improvements

The Fort Wayne sewage treatment plant converts the greasy waste from the Nestle plant near Anderson into electricity, and a planned $22 million loan would increase the plant's capacity to generate even more usable power. ( file photo by Kevin Leininger)
Matthew Wirtz

Fort Wayne is seeking a $22.4 million state loan to speed up improvements to its sanitary sewer system.

The 20-year loan from the Indiana State Revolving Fund would be be repaid through City Utilities customers’ monthly bills at an interest rate of 3 percent — a good deal in the current financial marketplace, according to Chief Financial Officer Justin Brugger. “We want to take advantage of that and do as much as we can as fast as we can,” he said, noting the accelerated schedule could also avoid future increases in construction costs.

City Utilities Deputy Director of Engineering Matthew Wirtz said the planned improvements will affect several programs, including the conversion of waste into usable energy and the five-mile, $188 million tunnel now under construction to achieve a 90 percent reduction in the discharge of untreated sewage into the rivers during heavy rains. New sewers funded through the loan will channel existing combined storm and sanitary sewers into drop shafts leading to the tunnel, which will take the sewage to to water pollution control plant for treatment.

The plant already converts some forms of liquid waste into methane, producing about 30 percent of the energy needed to operate the facility. In 2016 the city began accepting greasy sludge from the Nestle plant near Anderson, generating annual “tipping fees” of about $182,500 per year. The improvements will increase the plant’s capacity to store and process the waste, producing more energy for the plant and more revenue for the city. Currently some of the methane generated at the plant must be burned off because of a lack of capacity, Wirtz said.

The loan would also allow the city to upgrade the Rothman Road lift station and improve its monitoring of the system and planning for future needs.

The city will conduct a public hearing on the proposed loan following Tuesday’s Board of Works meeting, which will begin at noon in Room 035 of Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St. Work on some of the projects could begin before the end of the year.