Columbus Utilities considering major improvement projects in master plan

The Columbus Utility Service board has reviewed its 2024 master plan, which detailed the necessity of millions of dollars in improvements to CCU infrastructure over the next two decades.

The utilities used Columbus-based Strand Associates as an engineering consultant for the master plan, which CCU Executive Director Roger Kelso described as “a baseline document,” that is likely to undergo addendums over the next couple of years.

“It took a look at our system right now and what we’re going to need for infrastructure over the next 20 years,” CCU’s Associate Director of Engineering Ashley Getz said of the plan. “And some of the things it covers is growth and then some known issues that we have that need to (be) addressed— some high-risk issues. And aging infrastructure is a really big thing with our system.”

The following CCU projects are scheduled to start in 2024:

  • Walesboro and Woodside South lift station improvements ($5.5 million)
  • Royalview and Eastern One lift station improvements ($3.9 million)
  • Westside interceptor ($20 million)
  • I-65 water main crossing at Deaver Road ($2.3 million)
  • Various water main replacements (dependent on available funding)

In terms of what projects will come after 2024, Executive Director Roger Kelso said it will be “somewhat iterative.”

“We’ll start looking at what the financial impacts are to the customer base. And so there’ll be a progression of meetings and hearings and that sort of thing,” Kelso said.

Getz said the first focus is on replacement projects, followed by improvements to the water plants.

Getz compared the city’s 2022 water rate based upon a monthly usage of 4,000 gallons to the state average, which showed that the city’s rate is almost half.

Kelso cautioned that while that “looks attractive,” it is in part a result of various improvements that CCU had been putting off.

“You’ll find when we’re going through this master plan, that there’s substantial repair, replacement type of work that’s either been pushed off or that needs to be accomplished because of retirement of existing equipment and things of that nature.”

Getz said that Water Treatment Plant (WTP) One, located at Lincoln Park, is treating 3.1 millions of gallons of water per day (MGD). The plant’s capacity on paper is 8.0 MGD.

“After that we start to see breakthrough iron and manganese through the filters,” Getz said.

Water Treatment Plant Two, by the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds, has a capacity of 20 MGD, but in reality can treat about 13.7 MGD.

Over the next 20 years, Getz said the average daily demand for water is expected to be 11.8 MGD. CCU officials said the two plants have enough capacity to supply that if certain rehabilitation is done.

The master plan estimates that WTP One will need to undergo $1.4 million in improvements and WTP Two necessitates significant work, estimated at nearly $62 million.

In order to get WTP One back up to its 8.0 MGD capacity, CCU found it needs a combination of operational changes and capital projects.

Getz said one of the big bottlenecks in the system at WTP One is backwash water, so CCU plans to address that with work on the backwash pump and air scour blower and a reconfiguration of backwash water handling pumping and piping. CCU is also looking to change from chlorine gas disinfection to sodium hypochlorite disinfection due to safety concerns at both plants. Getz said with those improvements, WTP One would be able to improve to “six to eight MGD.”

Strand Associates and Indianapolis-based engineering consultant Arcadis broke down different projects that would be needed for WTP Two and ranked them based upon priority.

“So we can group them all together in one big project, we could do a few projects over a few years— it just depends on the rate impact and how much we want to take on at one time,” Getz said.

Below are capital projects CCU is planning for WTP Two in order of priority with their estimated total cost:

  • SCADA improvements ($330,000)
  • Chemical improvements – disinfection ($2,940,000)
  • Backwash process improvements ($7,560,000)
  • Full filter rehabilitation ($30,800,000)
  • Connect HSPs to redundant water main ($279,000)
  • HSP replacement ($11,270,000)
  • Bottom channel redundancy ($475,000)
  • ADA improvements & access, new back exit ($605,000)
  • New roof ($420,000)
  • New clearwell ($5,850,000)
  • Administration area improvements ($1,260,000)

The master plan recommended main transmission line projects, with the prime concern being placed on the raw water main along I-65 that connects to WTP Two. The cost of the project is estimated at $2.2 million.

“We only have one pipe that comes under the railroad and State Road 11 to the plant. So if something were to happen to that pipe, we would have trouble meeting the demand,” Getz said. “… So that’s why this is the highest priority transmission project— is to have a parallel main running that same way.”

CCU is looking at a $4.8 million transmission main along County Road 150W to address capacity needs of not only the industrial park the pipe serves, but a large amount west Tipton Lakes too.

The master plan pinpointed $4.1 million in pipe and lead service line replacements that would be needed, including CCU’s oldest pipes in downtown Columbus and any lines in the system “that are more likely to have lead,” Getz said.

“I’ll say we aren’t aware of any lead service lines that we have on our system, we have lead goose necks, which connect the main to the service line, so it’s just a little piece and they’re not considering those lead service lines right now. But we’re still probably going to have to remove them,” Getz said.

Another high-risk area the master plan identified are three of the mains that cross Haw Creek. Some of them poke out from under the creek, including a 16-inch transmission main at Marr Road and Tenth Street. The estimated cost to get the three mains back underground is approximately $2.7 million.

“So in the overall list, these are prioritized higher than water main replacements I just talked about,” Getz said.

CCU plans to raise two water tanks in the eastern pressure zone 20 feet each as an efficiency measure at an estimated cost of approximately $4 million.

Three new neighborhood booster stations are proposed at areas at high elevations that may experience lower pressure as demands increase including:

  • Shoshonee Drive ($102,000)
  • Rushmore Drive ($675,000)
  • Oak Ridge Trail ($102,000)

CCU had not had a valve maintenance program in the past, so many valves that were broken had not been fixed, Getz said. Over the next 20 years CCU intends to replace valves to the tune of $1.7 million.

Getz said that in previous capital projects, valves had been deleted from the plans as a cost-saving measure.

As for the sewer system, the most notable planned project is the $20 million westside interceptor that will eliminate the State Road 46 lift station and generally allows for continued growth on the west side of the city.

Several projects are planned for CCU’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) such as a centrifuge replacement expected to begin during the next round of capital improvements. WWTP work is expected to cost $44.1 million plus an additional $24 million in equipment replacements over the next 20 years.

The 2023 annual report listed eight projects scheduled for the next round of capital improvements:

  • WTP Two new roof ($420,000)
  • Oak Ridge Trail booster station ($102,000)
  • WTP 2 SCADA improvements ($330,000)
  • WWTP centrifuge replacement ($2 million)
  • Woodside sewer extension ($600,000)
  • Clify lift station upgrades ($1.87 million)
  • WWTP oxidation ditch improvements phase one ($3.2 million)
  • 8th Street lift station upgrades ($1.87 million)

CCU’s annual report can be found at: