Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

September 29, 2013

Rural communities struggle to pay for wastewater projects

Rural communities struggle to pay for wastewater projects

MEXICO, Ind. — Jane Tollver, 66, said she was planning on taking it easy after retiring when she moved to Mexico in rural Miami County five years ago.

But that didn’t happen. In January, she was forced to take a part-time job working as a clerk at the small post office in the unincorporated town of around 950 people.

Why? Tollver said she couldn’t afford a new monthly $60 sewer bill that she never anticipated paying.

Mexico residents started paying the bill earlier this year after completing a $7-million wastewater project to meet federal environmental regulations set out in the Clean Water Act, which Congress passed in 1972.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) discovered the town was in violation of the act after a resident complained about a green substance coming from a field tile. The state said failing septic systems were leaking raw sewage into the Eel River, and residents had to do something about it.

So they did. The town formed a regional sewer district that allowed it to go after state and federal grants and loans to pay for the new sewer system. They discussed the best option to clean up the sewage problem, and decided to build a small treatment facility in town that homes and businesses had to hook in to.

That cost money, too. Tollver said she had to take out a $1,500 loan to pay for the hook-up fee. Now, she said, she’s stuck paying back the loan and shelling out $60 a month to pay for the new treatment facility, its operation and its upkeep.

“I’m retired. A lot of people in Mexico are retired, and $60 a month is a big chunk of change for people who live on Social Security,” she said. “This wasn’t what I expected when I moved up here.”

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