To most residents, it may look like a stream that runs along the floodwall in Clarksville.
But that’s part of its design.
Clarksville officials unveiled a $1.4 million effluent line that will carry water from the Clarksville wastewater treatment pant — and the new plant once it is constructed — to Mill Creek on the south side of the flood wall, which eventually flows out into the Ohio River.
The new effluent line was deemed necessary after portions of the old sewer line that ran from the treatment plant crumbled during a 2011 flood.
According to town officials, the damage to the old line was severe enough that the town would have to replace large segments of the line, and even if they did, the ground was so unstable that there was a high risk that the soil would give way and the line would break again.
As a result, Clarksville entered into a an agreed order with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to make a series of upgrades to its wastewater treatment system. The first of those upgrades completed is the effluent line. The total cost of the wastewater upgrades is just shy of $30 million and also includes the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant for the town and a new connection system.
The cost of the effluent line is being partially covered by a $650,000 reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, because the 2011 flood that damaged the sewer line was declared a disaster by President Barack Obama.
Clarksville will be responsible for the remaining costs, and as part of the larger project, Clarksville Town Councilman John Gilkey said he was pleased that the council was able to keep the costs down.
“When we started this project we were looking at increasing sewer rates as high as $70 per month,” Gilkey said. “This council has worked very hard to get that cost down and to hold those rates in the vicinity of $40.”
As previously reported in the News and Tribune, the rate increases to pay for the project have jumped about 77 percent for town residents. The average bill, which was once $27.95 for 667 cubic feet of usage, is now $49.47.
And those who stumble across the new effluent may not know what it is.
“It’s been built to function as a natural wetland,” said Clarksville Project Manager Brittany Montgomery. “It’s the first of its kind.”
She added that the treated water runs out of the treatment plant through a path to a detention basin, down tiered, natural stones into Mill Creek. The reeds and plants in the basin give the wastewater some additional treatment, Montgomery said. And with the new effluent line the town will be able to discharge up to seven times the amount of water that it could previously handle.
“This is an example of taking a really bad situation that we had, when we had the sewer line collapse, and turning it into a remarkable facility that is ecologically friendly,” Gilkey said. “It’s a much more stable environment than we had with the pipe.”
The next step to complete the effluent portion of the project is to reforest the area by planting more than 500 trees in the basin and low lying areas near the effluent.
“The truth is, you’re never really going to know it’s here,” Montgomery said.