City working on permanent solution to flooding near ethanol plant

South Bend, Ind. After months of water woes, people living near South Bend’s former New Energy Ethanol Plant are getting a permanent solution.

Last week, the South Bend Common Council approved a budget that includes $350,000 for wells in nearby neighborhoods.

“I’m very happy because I love my home, I love the neighborhood,” said Catherine Washington, who lives down the street from the plant.

Washington and several other homeowners had problems with flooding last year after New Energy closed. When it was operational, the ethanol plant pumped millions of gallons of water out of the ground each day.

Since then, the city’s paid to keep one pump running until the new owner, Noble Americas L.L.C., starts operating.

The wells the city plans to install will serve as a backup in case Noble Americas ever has to turn their pumps off.

But, Executive Director of Public Works Eric Horvath says he doesn’t know when crews will dig the wells because the city’s still working on its design plan.

He says they’re trying to figure out how the maintenance and operational costs will be covered. Horvath says that cost could be absorbed by neighbors.

“I don’t think we should have to pay, because it’s really not fair to us,” Washington said. “Because, we didn’t cause the problem. And, I think the city should have to pay for it.”

Council Vice President Oliver Davis agrees. He says his original request to the administration was for $500,000, which would cover both installation and operation of the wells.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg appropriated only $350,000 in the budget for the project – an amount the council approved.

Buttigieg said last week he felt his budget “went well over the 50-yard line” when it came to addressing concerns of the council.

But, Davis says there’s more money available to take care of residents near the ethanol plant.

“I believe we do have the funds in the city that were set aside that we could utilize to cover these costs without adding any more burden to the neighbors,” he said.


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