Terre Haute water project halted due to contamination


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — The overall price tag for a water main lift station project in Terre Haute is expected to increase by up to $5 million after groundwater was found to be contaminated.

“There’s a lot of dewatering that needs to happen in order to do that, and in the process of dewatering we started to get contaminated water coming out of our discharge,” said TH Engineering Director of Inspection Brad Utz.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management was called in to address some dead fish that were found in a holding pond. IDEM’s Public Information Officer Barry Sneed wrote to our newsroom to give the following statement regarding the contamination:

“IDEM has been involved from a water quality perspective and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been involved because of dead fish. IDEM’s Emergency Response was called regarding dead fish in a stormwater holding pond. When IDEM ER staff investigated, they found pumps dewatering a large excavation project. The pumps were discharging water to the holding pond which was overflowing into the Wabash River.

IDEM could not allow the water in the holding pond, where the fish kill occurred and where the dewatering water from the project were being directed to, to be discharged into the Wabash River. The City is currently proposing treatment alternatives for the water in the holding pond and for the dewatering water from the project for the long term. IDEM and the City continue communicating on this matter to ensure that the dewatering water from the project does not cause adverse impacts to the Wabash River and to ensure that the ultimate discharge is in compliance with Indiana Water Quality Standards and applicable limitations.”

Barry Sneed, IDEM PIO

The project has since been halted indefinitely while a solution is reached. On Tuesday, the Terre Haute Board of Sanitary Commissioners approved the funding for a company to test and filter the groundwater at the site, but the treatment process will come with a cost.

Utz says three companies are still in the running to work on the site, with their prices ranging from $2.3 million to $5 million.

“That’s such a big gap that we want to know which one’s the best,” said Utz, “If we pick the $2.3 million one is it really going to work and do we have to go back to the drawing board? The $5 million is one we know will work, it’s just an old school method of doing this, but it’s the most expensive.”

Another expense adding up is the cost to keep the large crane currently on the property there while not actually using it for any construction; a cost that Utz says ranges from $25,000 to $30,000 a day.

Luckily for locals, Utz says there is no threat of further contamination in the Wabash River or surrounding water systems.

“We’ve shut everything down, we’re not dewatering, so it’s just in the ground,” said Utz, “It was already in the ground, so it’s not really affecting anything right now.”

The original project budget was approximately $54 million.

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