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South Bend looks to save millions with sewer plan

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — City officials are continuing to look for solutions in South Bend’s sewers for a longstanding financial crisis.

Three years and many public meetings later, officials say they have come up with a Long-Term Control Plan that would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

They laid out the latest plan Monday night at the city’s Public Works Center.

“We were very discouraged at a billion dollar plus bill for our Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) and as of tonight, we’re down to $200 million,” said Fred Ferlic, a former South Bend Common Councilman.

After the EPA tasked the city with cleaning up the river, Ferlic and others challenged the city to do so without cleaning out taxpayers’ wallets.

“We’ve saved the taxpayer millions of dollars and we’ve improved the environment and that’s a real tribute to our group and also the city,” he said.

The previous proposal for the second phase of the Long-Term Control Plan would’ve cost more than $713 million.

South Bend had already spent $150 million on the first phase.

This new plan would see the costs of the second phase slashed by more than half a billion dollars.

“It’s not just about the costs but the fact that we’re able to achieve equal or better environmental benefit as well is equally beneficial,” said Kieran Fahey, director of the City of South Bend's Combined Sewers Long Term Control Plan.

The city is calling the new plan the Smarter Alternative for a Greener Environment (SAGE).

“We’re doing our best to balance that but the great thing about this program is that we’ve really been able to cut that by half a billion dollars without changing what we’re doing to the environment,” said Eric Horvath, the director of Public Works.

On top of cutting costs significantly it would add greener infrastructure and a CSO storage tank at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Those savings are thanks to innovation.

According to officials, the city’s smart sewer systems helped reduce overflow by 75 percent.

“It couldn’t have been done without the use of and embracing the technology that was here in town,” said Horvath.

The city looks to take this new plan to the EPA but they could use taxpayer support putting all the pieces in place first.

“We have to get the city council to endorse it, we have to get the chamber of commerce, we have to get every citizen of South Bend to involve themselves and tell the EPA that this is a worthwhile venture for our city for South Bend to survive,” said Ferlic.

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