South Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant operates under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. This allows the plant to discharge treated wastewater to the St. Joseph River in accordance with the stringent permit conditions. South Bend’s plant is designed to treat an average flow of 48 million gallons per day and can treat at least 77 million gallons a day under high flow. In 2018, the plant treated more than 13 billion gallons of water. The solids produced at the plant are treated to levels that make them acceptable for use on certain farm fields.
Combined Sewer Overflow
Like many cities, South Bend has a combined sewer, meaning rainwater and sewage often travel in the same pipes. When excess rain overloads these pipes, an event known as a combined sewer overflow (CSO) occurs, sending dirty water into the river. As required by federal regulation, the City is taking steps to upgrade its sewer system to end this practice and to improve its local water quality. Known as the Long-term Control Plan (LTCP), steps are currently being implemented and will be complete by 2038.
TWO PHASES OF SOUTH BEND’S LONG-TERM CONTROL PLAN
Phase 1 was completed in 2017 at a cost of nearly $150 million. In certain South Bend neighborhoods, sewer separation (uncombining of the sewer system) occurred as well as the creation of the City’s Smart Sewer System. Containing over 150 sensors, the Smart Sewer System provides data for a range of parameters including flow, depth, velocity, and weir/gate control valve position. The system also contains smart moving valves that direct flow in the sewer and control storm water basin levels.
Phase 1 was a success, having removed over 75% of the annual CSO volume and preventing more than 1,500 million gallons of combined sewage from entering the St. Joseph River each year.
Phase 2 of the LTCP will cost more $276 million to implement. Commenced in 2021, the first projects are wastewater treatment plant expansion and the building of the City’s first ever combined sewage storage tank (two million gallon).
Phase 2, known in South Bend as our SAGE Plan, (Smarter Alternative for a Greener Environment) will be completed in 2038. View the SAGE Plan.
As required by 40 CFR 122.38 Great Lakes Basin CSO, permittees are required to develop a public notification plan. View CSO a Public Notification Plan.
Public CSO notification: If you would like to be notified of CSO events in South Bend, sign up for email notification. Residents wanting information on CSO events can also call 574.277.8515.
Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Annual Report
This annual notice describes CSO discharges that occurred in 2022 and complies with the new requirements of the federal NPDES permit rules, 40 CFR 122.38(b). For more information, contact the Wastewater Plant at 574.277.8515.
Mercury Pollution Reduction
What is mercury?
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that conducts electricity, combines easily with other metals, and expands and contracts evenly with temperature changes. Because of these properties, it is used in many household, medical and industrial products such as fluorescent light bulbs and old thermometers.
Although mercury is useful, it is also toxic. If not disposed of properly, mercury can escape into the environment, putting humans and animals at risk. Exposure can occur by breathing its vapors, ingesting mercury-containing food or water or absorbing it through the skin. Excessive exposure to mercury can impact the central nervous system and affect the way people see, hear and function. Unborn and young children are the most vulnerable to its effects.
Since mercury is naturally present in coal, burning coal for power generation can release it into the air. The toxic vapors are also released when mercury-containing products are broken. If liquid mercury escapes down a drain, it can go through the wastewater treatment plant and be released into waterways. Organisms and fish absorb mercury and its bio-accumulates as it moves up the food chain. Therefore, eating certain varieties of fish can expose humans and larger animals to higher amounts of mercury. Learn more about Indiana’s Fish Consumption Advisory.
South Bend’s drinking water meets all water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and does not have any detectable mercury; however, some mercury can be detected in the wastewater. The wastewater treatment plant cannot remove all the mercury; therefore, small amounts may end up in the river after the wastewater is cleaned and released. These levels are closely monitored by the regional EPA since the river water eventually travels to the Lake Michigan. Learn more about mercury.
Types of Products Containing Mercury
Mercury can be found in old thermometers, fluorescent and high intensity discharge light bulbs, switches in appliances and automotive applications, medical instruments, dental amalgam, some batteries and other products. View the EPA’s list of common consumer products that contain mercury.
Items containing mercury should be disposed of at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility, located at 828 Kerr Street. The service is free for South Bend residents, but they will need to show their ID. More information can be found on their website or by calling 574.235.9971.
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