Monday, March 22, 2010


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Indianapolis' combined sewer system in the old city limits is more than 100 years old and was designed to carry both sewage and rainwater in the same pipe. As little as a quarter-inch of rain can overload the combined sewers, causing raw sewage to overflow into nearby streams. Today, weather conditions indicate a strong possibility that precipitation may cause raw sewage overflows to occur or that raw sewage overflows have occurred in the past 72 hours. If the precipitation occurs as snow, raw sewage overflows may occur days or weeks later, when temperatures near or exceed freezing.

Please avoid all contact with water downstream of combined sewers.

Swallowing or hand-to-mouth contact with sewage contaminated water could make you sick. Signs are posted along our waterways to identify more than 130 combined sewer outfalls and areas where contact with the water could be hazardous to your health. Even in dry weather, it is best to avoid contact with urban streams and teach children to stay away.

The affected areas include:

White River downstream from 56th Street, Fall Creek downstream from Keystone Avenue, Little Eagle Creek downstream from Michigan Street, Eagle Creek downstream from the confluence of Little Eagle Creek, Pogues Run downstream from 21st Street, Pleasant Run downstream from Kitley Avenue, State Ditch downstream from Southern Avenue and Bean Creek downstream from I-65.

The City of Indianapolis encourages you to take the following protective actions:

- Avoid contact with urban streams, especially during and three days after rain or snowmelts.

- Alter recreational activities to ones that do not involve contact with urban waterways. For example, walk or bike along a stream rather than swimming, wading or water skiing.

- Always wash your hands after contacting water in urban waterways, especially before eating, drinking, smoking or preparing food.

- Use a waterless hand sanitizer at outings that occur near urban waterways.

The City's Clean Streams-Healthy Neighborhoods program is working to improve our waterways and reduce and eliminate raw sewage overflows. The City is implementing a 20-year, long-term plan to capture raw sewage overflows during all but a few large storms each year. Sewer and wastewater treatment plant improvements have already reduced raw sewage overflows by hundreds of millions of gallons each year. When the plan is complete, more than 95 percent of raw sewage overflows will be captured and treated in a typical year instead of overflowing into local rivers and streams.

Under an October 2006 agreement with the state and federal government, the City has agreed to invest:

> $1.73 billion (in 2004 dollars) by December 2025 to significantly reduce raw sewage overflows from the combined sewer system;

> $50.4 million (in 2004 dollars) by December 2015 to eliminate chronic overflows from seven locations in the separate, sanitary sewer system; and

> $3.5 million (in 2004 dollars) by December 2010 on supplemental environmental projects to eliminate septic systems in two neighborhoods.

For more information or to view a list of planned projects, visit

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