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Water infrastructure a growing problem for South Bend

South Bend’s water infrastructure is in an ‘emergency situation.’

“People have this misunderstanding that water treatment equipment lasts forever,” South Bend Utilities Operations Manager Matthew Bussell said. “It doesn’t.”

Bussell led an eye-opening tour of the deteriorating Edison Filtration Plant on Rockne Drive in South Bend Thursday afternoon.

“If we get a lot of snow on that roof and it builds up, it can cave in,” Bussell said. “[If] that roof caves in, you can’t use the filters. You can’t use the filters? You can’t use the plant. [Then] we can’t supply water from this plant.”

Bussell said the crumbling roofs and outdated equipment is making it harder for his team to keep the city’s drinking water clean.

As ABC57 has reported, that’s why South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg – who attended Thursday’s tour – is urging the city council to vote to raise the cost of water for residents.

The increase would be between $4 and $5 each month for the average household.

“There’s about $88 million of needed investment across the system,” Buttigieg said. “And in order to deliver safe water for everybody, we need to be willing to make those investments.”

Water treatment production has slowed in the city over the years, Bussell said, because the equipment can’t keep up.

He said the time to upgrade is now, or things will only get tougher.

“It may be a decade from now. Maybe a decade and a half from now, I don’t know. But at some point, all that’s gonna catch up with you and you’re gonna have so many fires to put out that you can’t possibly keep up with them,” Bussell said.

According to Bussell, the city should be able to treat about 70 million gallons of water each day.

Currently – because of the crumbling infrastructure – that number is only at 40 million gallons.

One city council member also attended Thursday’s tour. 

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