When South Bend's bankrupt ethanol plant shut down, groundwater levels in the area went up. Some people with homes in the area saw the problem hit them where they live--in their basements.
Since the 1980s, the ethanol plant had pumped millions of gallons of water a day out of the ground, effectively lowering the water table in the neighborhood. With the groundwater going back to its natural level, some homeowners are experiencing flooding in their basements.
Groundwater infiltration is believed to be related to mold and mildew in three homes that have been affected by rising groundwater levels. So far, six properties have reported flooding or other issues.
Although the problems that have resulted from New Energy's shut down are not the responsibility of the city, the mayor, members of the common council and city's department of public works are working with concerned community groups to provide recommendations to home and business owners.
The St. Joseph County Health Department has responded to homeowners with mold and mildew issues to give them information on how to clean it safely. It's also offered dehumidification equipment to homes that are income eligible.
The city will temporarily allow affected homeowners to dump water into city sewers from their sump pumps without charging them.
Meanwhile, everyone is hoping a new owner for the plant will step forward.
Even if a buyer does come forward to purchase the plant, however, there is no guarantee that production or pumping would resume.
City officials are hopeful an update may be coming from bankruptcy court in early February.