I know you are thinking, “oh, another article about cleaning up Indianapolis’ water ways.” Here me out – this is no such article and DigIndy is no mere project. DigIndy is a $2 billion-dollar program designed to reduce, “combined sewer overflows into area waterways by up to 97 percent.” Wait, sewage is getting into our water ways? I know – gross.
It turns out that this has been going on for years. Over 100 years ago when Indianapolis built its first sewage system, it was considered state of the art. Storm water and sewage were combined into one pipe and pumped away to rivers and streams. With rapidly improving technology, wastewater treatment plants were built to treat the sewage. However, during periods of intense rainfall, the wastewater treatment plants would get overwhelmed and the excess raw sewage would overflow into our waterways.
While new neighborhoods have been designed to combat this issue, many of the older neighborhoods in Indianapolis are still affected. DigIndy says that, “White River, Fall Creek, Eagle Creek, Pleasant Run, Bean Creek, Pogues Run, Lick Creek, and State Ditch,” are all affected. You may have seen this issue highlighted in the recent best-selling book, Turtles All the Way Down, by Indianapolis-based author John Green. There is a portion of the book where the main character is describing the White River and says the river is, “50 percent urine. And that’s the good half.”
What is the solution, you ask? The DigIndy Tunnel System of course! This system will, “store more than 250 million gallons of sewage during and after wet weather, and then slowly release the sewage,” to the appropriate wastewater treatment plant. These tunnels are currently being dug by a fancy machine known as a tunnel boring machine. These tunnels can be seen on the colorful map in this article. Each tunnel is labeled a different color depending on the waterway it affects. Citizens Energy Group, leading the effort, put out a very helpful video called “DigIndy – A Bird’s Eye View” to help explain the proposed solution. Watch below!
Why is this project happening, you ask? We, in the local community, would like to have clean waterways and it just so happens that the federal government would like us to have clean waterways as well! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stipulated in the Clean Water Act that, “combined sewer communities must develop plans to reduce these overflows to protect human health and the environment.” The Combined Sewer Overflow Program or DigIndy is projected to be completed in 2023.
If you are intrigued by this project, check out DigIndy’s website. They have numerous events and interactives to inform citizens, including a 360-degree tour of the tunnels. Also, DigIndy is seeking to engage the art community by creating the DigIndy Art Project. These art events will occur throughout the summer and will be, “inspired by Indy’s waterways.” Who knew that sewage could be so exciting?
[map from http://www.citizensenergygroup.com/Our-Company/Our-Projects/Dig-Indy/The-Solution/Tunnel-System-Map]