The average American home generates up to 310 gallons of wastewater per day.
At Tippecanoe and Chapman Lakes, approximately 320,000 gallons of wastewater are deposited into the soil each day – within proximity to the lakes and residential wells. These are the same wells that the community draws their water from to cook, clean, bathe, and drink. And the same lakes they swim and fish in during the summer months.
Communities along these lakes average three to four housing units per acre of land. Because there is not an existing sewer system, these households produce and discharge far more wastewater into the environment than many people realize.
Additionally, septic systems do not completely treat bacteria, viruses, nitrates, or phosphorus. Instead, these systems trap some constituents in soil and then discharge the balance to groundwater and surface water around the lakes. Worse yet, recent studies show that septic systems can also discharge trace amounts of pharmaceuticals. Undocumented failures or poorly functioning systems, coupled with less-than-ideal soil conditions, can contribute to public and environmental health risks.
In most cases, homeowners within the Tippy-Chapman area don’t even meet the Kosciusko County standards allowing for a septic system. Per the County, lot sizes need to be a minimum of 20,000 square feet. However, that standard is over double the size of an average Tippy-Chapman lot. Furthermore, given the age of the residential developments and the fact that many of the septic systems have matured and will need to be replaced, maintenance will likely become too costly – or in some cases impossible – for the homeowner to take on.
These issues, however, aren’t isolated to Tippecanoe and Chapman Lakes. Most lake communities without a sewer system experience these same challenges.
Considered to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of Kosciusko County, the $51 million Tippecanoe and Chapman Lakes Septic Elimination Project is a collaborative effort to provide homeowners with a community sewer system.
When complete, this project will have a monumental impact on both the environment and quality of life for Tippy-Chapman residents.
This project began nearly three decades ago, in 1994, when a multitude of sewer studies took place. Finding that there may not be adequate capacity for discharge of the wastewater created by residents around the lakes, along with concerns that the soil may not be conducive to on-site septic and many lots were under the minimum size necessary, a sewer system was recommended to serve the area. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that the Tippecanoe-Chapman Regional Sewer District (TCRSD) was formed.
As the engineering firm working on this monumental project, JPR completed a Preliminary Engineering Report in 2021 and found that a pressure sewer system would be the most cost-effective solution. This would consist of grinder pump stations, typically shared between neighboring property owners, that force wastewater through a pressure main network. It was also decided that regionalization with the City of Warsaw Wastewater Treatment Plant would be the most economical option for disposal. This connection to Warsaw’s gravity sewer system would allow the wastewater pumped from Tippecanoe and Chapman Lakes to be transported to their plant for treatment.
A true collaboration, this project involved a variety of stakeholders including Kosciusko County, TCRSD board members, the Watershed Foundation, and the City of Warsaw, as well as Tippecanoe Lakes and Chapman Lakes Property Owners Associations.
It was also imperative that the homeowners were involved. JPR engineers and support staff facilitated multiple community engagement meetings, met with resident’s one-on-one, answered phone calls, and responded to emails. All of this was done with the goal of transparency. The team wanted to ensure the homeowners were aware of the situation and on-board with the project. In addition, coordination was needed to find the most convenient locations for the grinder pumps that would be installed on their properties. The team was able to get input from approximately 60% of property owners during the design phase.
JPR worked closely with the board of trustees to successfully bring the design together. This included, at times, multiple meetings in a single week to make sure the project was on schedule and progressing efficiently. Once the design was complete, the bidding process began in 2022 and the funding was closed soon after.
Coming in at $51 million, this project is one of the largest – if not the largest – infrastructure projects to ever occur in Kosciusko County. It’s funded through the Indiana State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan program and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development. The project received $2.5 million in grant funds and $17.5 million in a 0% interest loan for up to 35 years from the SRF, as well as $11 million in a grant and $20 million in a low interest, long-term loan from the USDA Rural Development office.
“We probably bid the project in one of the worst economic conditions that we could have,” said Ken Jones, Sr., president and CEO of JPR. “However, our partnerships with the funding agencies didn’t allow us to introduce any delay, so we kept pushing forward.”
Even so, the team was able to close the gap in every way possible and still fall within their original monthly target rate for residents – paying between $80 and $90 for the new sewer system.
Construction started in December 2022 with a groundbreaking ceremony, and the sewer will be built-out over 18 to 24 months. Substantial completion is planned for September 2024, with final completion soon thereafter. At that time, customers will connect to the new sewer system, and treatment will begin at the Warsaw Wastewater Treatment Plant.
By redirecting and treating the sewage instead of using homeowner septic systems, this will help reduce pollution in the Upper Tippecanoe River Watershed, as well as improve the health and safety of both residents and visitors.