Hammond, Munster councils tour Sanitary District

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October 03, 2014 – Rob Earnshaw

Members of the Hammond City Council and Munster Town Council toured the Hammond Sanitary District Wednesday.

For many of them it marked the first time getting a thorough look at the 80-acre facility at 5143 Columbia Ave. that serves Hammond, Munster, Highland, Griffith and Whiting. Marty Wielgos, sanitary district manager, said it was a chance for council members in the two communities to see how old the plant is and yet how well it’s maintained and how well it functions.

Wielgos said about $100,000 a week was being spent on maintenance until funds were getting tight and the number was brought down to $80,000. Wielgos said at that cost the superintendent of maintenance, Rick Sutton, “does a remarkable job without jeopardizing the plant.”

Operational costs are $17 million a year and $250,000 a month in energy costs go to NIPSCO. The sanitary district at one time had about 150 employees, Wielgos said, but because of automation, it’s down to about 60. Wielgos said employees average about 18 to 20 years of service to the facility.

The bulk of the facility was built in 1938 and it’s been expanding ever since, Sutton said. It treats 48 million gallons a day and when it rains will pump 68 million gallons into the plant “instantaneously.” The plant also handles about 100,000 pounds of solids a day.

Sutton said there are about 16,000 wastewater treatment plants in the United States – 450 of which treat between 10 million gallons 50 million gallons daily. There are about 50 plants in major cities like Chicago treating more than 50 million gallons.

The sanitary district recently built a new 33 million gallon retention basin across the street from its facility.