Agency says new water treatment plant doesn’t need to be as big, EWSU disagrees

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EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) Evansville Water and Sewer Utility is continuing their push for a new water treatment facility. The EWSU wants a facility with a capacity of 50 MGD, but the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says it should be smaller, at 40 MGD.

EWSU is pushing back, saying that size facility would barely meet the water requirements they currently have. Their current capacity is 42 MGD and recently, their peak demand was over 37 MGD. Water officials say the new facility needs to be able to serve current needs, as well as possible growth in the future.

“We are in agreement with them. We need a new water treatment plant,” says Lane Young, executive director of EWSU. But what he and other utility officials disagree on with the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is on its size, and cost to consumers.

“We believe we need a 50 million gallon per day capacity plant. They believe we need a 40 million. They want to reduce that to 40 million gallons per day,” says Young. He also says they’re sticking with their 50 million gallon a day capacity plans because they think it better meets current and future needs.

“In fact, we have gotten recent demands, even within the last few days of an industry interested in moving to Evansville that would add 9 million gallons per day in demand, just one industry. We want to be sure we can meet that demand,” Young says.

Anthony Swinger of the OUCC says building a smaller capacity plant saves customers on their monthly bill as much as twenty percent on the increase.

“A typical water bill in the neighborhood of $35 would eventually go up to $61 a month under the city’s request. Our recommendations would cap that at under $55 a month,” he explained.

But Young says building smaller now is more expensive later.

“It wouldn’t be a 20% reduction, which is the propose, because the cost to even build to 40 is not a 20% reduction of what the cost would be to build 50,” Young says.

Swinger says they’ll study the response by EWSU. A final decision on capacity is expected next march.

The water treatment facility the EWSU wants to build would cost more than $220 million to complete the project. In order to cover the costs, they need to raise the water portion of customers’ bills by over 30% over the next 5 years. The current plant was built in 1897.

(This story was originally published on September 24, 2021)

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