NORTH WEBSTER — On Friday, July 21, the Lakeland Regional Sewer District reached a symbolic milestone with a ribbon cutting at its completed wastewater treatment facility, 5002 E. 100 N., south of the Barbee Lake chain it serves. The ceremony marked the culmination of a nine year process to construct a sewer system providing service to 1,700 residents at a cost of $28 million.
The wastewater plant will also be open to the public from 9-11 a.m., Saturday, July 22.
LRSD Vice President Bob Marcuccilli kicked of the proceedings with an outline of the project’s history, going back to 2007, when the Kosciusko County Commissioners and County Counsel petitioned the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to form the district. Construction eventually began in 2015 with a loan from the United States Department of Agriculture, following a complicated process of working with property owners to place grinder stations and obtain easements for each connection.
Jim Haney, LRSD board president, expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development for “innovative actions” in providing the district with a low interest loan as well as $8 million in grant funding. He also thanked the property owners for their “constructive criticism” and “supportive cooperation.”
Many of the individuals Haney thanked for their help “getting to this point” were present, including Sue Ann Mitchell, the most recent addition to the board, replacing Bob Sanders who passed away this spring; Sharon Sanders, his widow; Cathy Gilmore, wife of Lowell Gilmore who served on the board until his passing in 2010; Bob Weaver of the Kosciusko Health Department; Greg Gear, district office manager; County Commissioner Ron Truex, also a former board member.
Haney also thanked Carson Boxberger for legal representation, DLZ Engineering, which designed the system and provided oversight of the construction process, Jones Petrie Rafinski, Astbury Water Technology and H.J. Umbaugh.
Representatives from the offices of Senator Joe Donnelly and U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski and Jim Banks were also on hand to deliver prepared statements.
Donnelly called the project an example of “smart federal investment,” while Walorski praised its “innovative spirit,” citing the project as a “model for infrastructure projects throughout the country.”
Following the ceremony, participants toured the plant, which uses a low pressure system common for lake communities characterized by seasonal population fluctuations.
Tom Astbury of Astbury Water Technologies pointed out water returning to the environment via Van Curen Ditch is “cleaner than the water in the creek.”
Wastewater is fed through a system of clarifying and aerating tanks which maintain an environment of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, that feed on harmful waste material. Additionally, the water is passed through a sanitizing process using ultraviolet light, which is, according to Astbury, “better for the environment” than chlorine or other chemicals.
Speaking of the district as a whole, Weaver noted discarding the old septic systems will “allow people to do more with their property. Septic takes a lot of land.” He added he will no longer have to “say no” to people hoping to build structures such as garages or additions because of septic tanks. “It gives them a lot more freedom.”
Meanwhile, the pace of residents connecting to the system has steadily increased, now up to 12-15 per day. “It took a while to get it rolling,” said Marcuccilli.
“It’s been a long road. I’m glad to be here,” he commented, adding “There is still a lot to do.”
For more information on the Lakeland Regional Sewer District, go to lakelandrsd.com.