South Bend, Indiana, finalizes 'smart sewer' plan after 5 years of retooling

Aug 23, 2021

After nearly five years of negotiations with federal and state agencies, officials in South Bend, Indiana, say a revised investment plan in “smart sewer” technology will help them save $437 million over the next 17 years.

The city finalized a deal earlier this month with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to continue using sensors built into its sewer lines that provide 15 million data points a year. The sensors have reduced the amount of E. coli in local rivers by 80% and are also a money-saver for the city, Eric Horvath, the city’s public works director, told StateScoop.

South Bend began placing sensors in its sewer system in 2008, independent of a push from the EPA around the same time to more strictly enforce the federal Clean Water Act. In 2007, Horvath said, the EPA and IDEM asked South Bend to come up with a “long-term control plan,” a 15-20 year plan to care for the sewer system while also reducing the amount of bacteria and sewage overflow into the city’s rivers. It took nearly four years for the city to agree on an environmental plan with the two environmental entities and the DOJ, Horvath said, with all parties ultimately agreeing on a sewer plan that would go into effect in 2012.
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