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Culvert replacement costing Valpo more money than expected

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The utility board tabled a proposal to change the way the water reclamation department handles sewage and wastewater.

Board members wanted to see whether the possible cost would be worth changing the process by constructing a facility estimated at $2 million to $3 million, although an accurate estimate won’t be available until engineers design it.

They also wanted to talk to nearby municipalities that use the new process, such as Mishawaka and South Bend.

The new process would turn the human and other waste into a solid fertilizer = the city could give or sell to residents and landscapers.

Board Member Kurt Minko said it could take 30 years for the new system to be worth it if it costs that much.

Currently, the city processes the sewage sludge into about four million gallons of Class B “biosolids,” getting rid of bacteria, viruses and parasites. Valparaiso is state licensed through 2019 to apply that to local farm fields after it’s safe enough, rotating between farms to do it.

“The growers are actually using our biosolids as a quality natural fertilizer,” Poulos said.

However, of the $200,000 annual cost for doing this, about $160,000 to $170,000 is hiring a contractor to haul the liquid to farm fields.

Cost has escalated 43 percent over the last five years, Poulos said.

The farmers do not pay for the fertilizer treatment, and Board Member Mike Sur said he’d like to consider charging the farmers at least a minimal fee.

Poulos said he wouldn’t bring the proposed change to the board if he didn’t think it was viable.

The utilities department has experimented with the process since 2009 and found a way to meet state standards.

The city could also bury the waste in a landfill. Poulos said that would raise costs considerably.

Updated: February 14, 2013 6:47AM



VALPARAISO — What seemed to be the simple task of replacing a culvert under the CSX railroad tracks near Franklin House is costing the city an additional $56,000 in design fees.

The Valparaiso Utilities Board has hired a different engineering firm to design a replacement culvert for the area southwest of Lincolnway and Campbell Street, choosing DLZ over the firm that did the previous work, R.W. Armstrong of Indianapolis.

A sinkhole developed south of the brick culvert in November 2010, and city engineers saw the ancient brick culvert was failing and not repairable.

Engineers assumed that the ground under the tracks was solid enough to dig another culvert through because the existing one has been there for more than 100 years without needing work or replacement. However, halfway into the design, the railroad required soil borings, and those showed there was soft ground unable to bear weight, said deputy city engineer Adam McAlpine.

Because of the spongy and watery peat under the soil, Armstrong’s plans to dig deeper for a new culvert or bring in extra dirt — and weight — to shore things up wouldn’t work.

A culvert will have to be built under the tracks farther east or west, based on soil testing by borings.

“We need to realize that the soils are completely driving the design,” McAlpine said.

The culvert drains water from a large area along Campbell Street and to the north.

The city paid R.W. Armstrong $44,000 to do the study, a not-to-exceed amount that the firm met. Although Utility Board members wanted to see if any of the costs could be recouped because the work completed couldn’t be used, board attorney Mike Langer said the contract didn’t require soil borings and Armstrong met requirements.

Utilities Director Steve Poulos said he would meet with Armstrong representatives to discuss whether anything could be done about the money spent without usable results.



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