Friday, September 19, 2014

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Ethanol plant closure: City helping residents - for now
By Daryl Bjoraas


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The closing of the ethanol plant has created some serious flooding issues for homeowners on South Bend's southwest side. The plant managed pumps in the area to control the water table, but stopped once the plant closed.

The city of South Bend is providing temporary relief through another pump, but they're not sure how much longer they can do that.

Since the ethanol plant closed its doors in early November, residents have been dealing with flooded yards and basements.

"Homes were built with basements with an elevation that were lower than the original groundwater elevation,” said Eric Horvath of the Department of Public Works.

New Energy operated several wells in the area that have since stopped running. That has caused the water table to rise.

Right now the city is pumping some of that water, but officials and homeowners still want to know who's to blame?

"I don't think anyone realized the effects of what was going on,” said Charles C. Bulot, St. Joseph County Building Commission.

Most of the homes in the neighborhood were built in the 1980s, when the plant was still in operation. The city issued permits, not expecting ethanol to take a hit.

But the city says the home builders are at fault. Officials say they knew the land was on a high water table, so they shouldn't have dug basements so deep.

We tried reaching out to Garden Homes, the homebuilder, but no one was available to answer the phone or the door.

"It's going to really depend on what happens these next few weeks,” said Oliver Davis, South Bend City Councilman.

The city is trying to find a buyer for the New Energy plant.

A February 3rd bankruptcy hearing will reveal a potential new buyer, but there's a possibility no one will step forward.