KEVIN LEININGER: All will soon be ‘well’ with city water supply; Wrigley Field comes to Fort Wayne?

Fort Wayne currently gets its drinking water from the St. Joseph River, but to ensure consistent taste the city will soon also draw water from wells -- one of which has already been drilled near the treatment plant downtown. (News-Sentinel.com photo by Kevin Leininger)
The roof over this outfield seating area at Parkview Field obstructs the view from some of the Carson Boxberger law offices. (News-Sentinel.com photo by Kevin Leininger)
Matthew Wirtz
Mike Nutter
Kevin Leininger

Fort Wayne’s drinking water has won awards for quality and taste. But every now and then — usually when spring thaws and rain wash leaves and other organic material into the St. Joseph River — what comes out of the tap can be a little unappetizing.

Now, at a cost of $1.62 million, City Utilities is going back to the future to make skunky water a thing of the past.

By late next year or early 2021, two new wells should be able to provide as many as 10 million gallons of water per day, according to Matthew Wirtz, deputy director of City Utilities. That’s not enough to replace the 30 million gallons per day normally drawn from near the dam on the St. Joe near Coliseum Boulevard, but the ability to blend sources will help keep the water palatable.

“It will help with chemical use during runoff,” Wirtz said of the “deep rock” wells, one of which has already been drilled on the site of the downtown filtration plant but is not yet operational. Although water from the plant is safe to drink, city officials in March said they were adding carbon to the treatment process to combat what they called an “earthy” taste. The situation was similar in June 2016, when City Utilities acknowledged a “really high odor” that could not be entirely eliminated through the normal treatment process.

Hence the value of an alternate source of water that is not subject to seasonal changes. And that consistency is not limited to taste, Wirtz said: Because groundwater remains at about 50 degrees year-round, its use during cold-weather months will warm water from the St. Joe, possibly reducing the number of broken mains that occur each winter.

The wells, to be funded through the recent rate increase, will also assure a back-up supply of water should the normal source become unavailable — not that such a thing is likely. The Leo-Cedarville Reservoir holds 450 million gallons and the Hurshtown Reservoir another 1.9 billion gallons, in addition to two above-ground storage tanks and a 20 million gallon underground tank near the filtration plant.

Use of well water will be nothing new for some local residents. Before the city paid $67 million for Aqua Indiana in 2014, the private utility got its water underground. But those wells are too far from the city’s plant to make their use practical, Wirtz said. Most of Fort Wayne, however, has not relied on wells since the filtration plant opened in 1933.

So what was old will soon be new again — and your nose should notice the improvement.

Wrigley in Fort Wayne?

When the Chicago Cubs added huge video scoreboards in Wrigley Field a few years ago, owners of some of the buildings behind the left- and right-field walls sued, arguing the obstructions would block the view from their lucrative rooftop seats. A similar thing — on a much smaller and apparently more cordial level — appears to be happening at Parkview Field.

The roof erected this spring over an outfield seating area appears to have captured the attention of the Carson Boxberger law firm, whose second-floor offices in the adjacent Harrison building overlook the outfield. Some of the views, however, are partially blocked by the improvement, and it may not be the first time changes to the park have drawn a negative response from neighbors who preferred their sight lines the way they were. Because life’s only constant is change, representatives of the city, TinCaps and others have been meeting to resolve current issues and to avoid similar problems in the future.

In a statement, team President Mike Nutter told me that “Consistent with what the TinCaps have done for the past 10-plus years, we are always looking to improve Parkview Field for our fans. To that end, we are constructing a new group area, at the team’s expense, in left field. We are having discussions with the Harrison out of a desire to be a good partner and, as much as possible given what we need to do for the ballpark, minimize any impact of ballpark improvements on the building and its tenants.”

That’s good, because Parkview Field is a civic gem and it’s always easier to avoid problems than it is to solve them. Those Chicago rooftop owners lost their suit, by the way, but history may not repeat itself: City Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend said that roof blocking the law firm’s view will probably have to be changed in some way.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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