Community reacts after consumer counselor says Evansville water plant needs to be smaller

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Evansville Water and Sewer Utility is pushing back against a state regulatory commission over a new water treatment facility

The EWSU wants a facility with a capacity of 50 millions gallons a day (MGD), but the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says it should be smaller, at 40 MGD.

Some community members say the city’s utility is not doing enough to prevent a spike in water rate costs. The news comes two weeks after the consumer agency recommended a plant smaller in size.

“This is totally unreasonable, this is not a well managed utility,” said Evansville Social Justice member Pam Martin. “We were happy they reduced it somewhat, but we believe it needs to be reduced even more, the people of Evansville can not bear this burden, this is an out of control spending utility.” 

Evansville Water Utility officials say they plan to stay with the 50 million gallon a day capacity at the new plant.

“We looked at it, and we thought that might reduce the cost by 7 percent, but if we have to go back and rebuild to 50 or higher, then that would be even more than what the cost is today,” explained Evansville Water Utility Executive Director Lane Young. 

Young says their original planned capacity would meet current and future demands and be more cost effective. However, some in the community say their water bills keep rising. 

“This is not only a fight for our water bills but for our survival,” said Evansville Social Justice’s William Payne. “We have people who are actually considering whether or not they need to buy their medicine or pay their water bills.”

Eyewitness News reached out to several city officials. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke forwarded our questions to the utility. 

We also reached out to city council members and only one responded.

Councilman Justin Elpers says he “agrees with the utility plans and the OUCC’s request was shortsighted.”

Officials say a federal mandate by the EPA forcing the city to overhaul water infrastructure has no connection with the plant’s capacity. 

A final decision on capacity is expected next March by the Indiana Utility Regulator. Some in the community say the fight won’t stop here.

“No matter how this turns out, we will make that an issue going forward into the next city election,” Martin said. 

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