For most of us, it’s pretty simple:
Turn on the faucet, get clean water.
But before water comes flowing into your house, there are several important steps that municipalities must take to ensure that your water is safe water. All water in the Vevay Utilities system first passes through the town’s water plant, where it is purified with different systems, including chlorine.
The old Vevay Water Plant building on Seminary Street stood for decades, but state regulations and the rapid deterioration of the physical building put members of the Vevay Town Council in a bind.
“When this group took office in January of 2012, one of our big pushes was to get this water plant taken care of,” Town Councilman Josh South said. “In the span of about three months, we had a fire department and a fire marshal who came through and they threatened to basically condemn the building, due to the shape that it was in. We had some problems with bricks falling from the ceiling, and it was just in really bad shape. We began to look into grants, but pursuing those was going to set us back at least a year, so thankfully we had our riverboat money to fall back on, so we were able to replace the building and upgrade the system more quickly.”
The state’s Indiana Department of Environmental Management “strongly encouraged” the Vevay Town Council to comply with state code, which meant bringing the large water pumps, which supply all of the town’s water supply, up to ground level. In the old building, the pumps were located in the basement below ground, which not only raised the possibility of ground water or other things getting into the system, but also a cause for concern as to what would happen if the building above collapsed onto the pumps.
Another issue was that in the old building, the chlorine system was located in the basement, meaning the town workers had to carry cylinders of the gas up and down the stairways. There was also no ventilation system in the basement, and no emergency exit in the event of a dangerous chlorine leak or spill.
“All of the issues with the building itself, and also the safety concerns that we had for our employees, made it an easy decision for us to move forward,” Town Councilman Keith Smith said. “Like Josh said, with the riverboat money, and also some of the money that the town got from the sale of the shoe factory building to BESI, we were able to do this project more quickly and without using taxpayer dollars.”
“It’s been a long process,” Town Councilman Jamie Hayes said. “IDEM strongly suggested those changes before this board even started. They suggested that we move on it.”
“What really kicked off this effort, was that the guys started up a bobcat in here, and when it started bricks started falling out of the wall,” Josh South said. “We knew that something needed to be done and done quickly.”
With the safety of their employees at the forefront, and with state agencies saying that something needed to be done, the town council opted to use riverboat revenue sharing funds.
“This is what riverboat money builds, right here,” Josh South said. “You hear so much bad press about riverboat funds, but this is what they were intended for. We may not agree with every project that comes out of riverboat money, but small, rural communities like ours, we couldn’t do projects like this in the time frame that was needed to do it without those funds.”
“In the 15 years that I’ve been on the council, we’ve put millions of dollars underground that people don’t even see,” Jamie Hayes said. “We’ve done necessary work like upgrading storm sewers and things, but people can’t see that, they just benefit from it. This is probably one of the first things we’ve done that our residents can actually see that riverboat money.”
The town contracted with Joe Parham of Parham Excavating to tear down the old building and then be a primary player in the construction of the new facility. At the center of all discussions was an obvious fact – during demolition and new construction, the people of Vevay needed to have water.
The answer came with a temporary facility being located on the site, which housed necessary equipment and systems while work went on nearby.
“The temporary service ran pretty smoothly if you ask me,” Bobby Hensley of the Utilities Department said. “Chlorination and everything was all temporary, but it all worked great.”
“That was our biggest worry, the tear down portion of it, but Joe did a great job,” Josh South said.
“Once the old building was on the ground, I think everybody had a big sigh of relief,” Keith Smith said.
What was so tricky about tearing down a building that was about to fall down, anyway?
Remember, three of the town’s main water pumps were still in the basement of the old building, so before demolition could commence, Parham Excavating had to first reinforce the floor of the building so that the structure could come down without falling into the basement and damaging the pumps.
“One of the pumps was out, but the other pump was still in the basement, so we had to brace all of that up,” Joe Parham said. “It all ran the whole time we were doing it. Once the building came down and we hauled it all away, then we chipped the floor out around it and brought the pump up to street level.”
The construction of the new building began about two weeks later after all of the old structure was hauled away.
“It’s state of the art,” Jamie Hayes said. “We’re very proud of it.”
Vevay Utilities Superintendent Terry Brindley said that now that the new facility is online, all of the wells have been upgraded and are now in compliance with all state codes.
“The chlorine room is also at street level and there are a lot of safety issues and safety equipment in place,” Terry Brindley said. “There are safety shut offs. If there’s a chlorine leak, it will shut off automatically. There’s an emergency shut off button that will shut everything off. Those are all big pluses.”
“Before we built this, it was extremely dangerous,” Keith Smith said. “We just couldn’t continue to have our workers in those conditions.”
“If you look around, everything’s color coded in here now,” Josh South said. “The potable water, the fluoride is light blue, the chlorine is yellow. Everything’s really visible, so we’re a lot less likely to have mistakes or accidents.”
Terry Brindley said that 160,000 gallons of water passes through the town’s water plant each day, servicing not only the entire town of Vevay, but also serves residents of the county who bring portable water tanks to the water filling facility in front of the building to purchase water for their cisterns.
In addition, the new building is much smaller than the old building that was torn down, making it more efficient. There is also additional space in a fenced in area behind the plant for secure storage, as well as some room to grow in the future should the town need to do that.
Overall, the project also came in very close to budget.
“The overall cost of the project is right around $600,000, which is where we thought it would be when we started,” Josh South said.
The Switzerland County Council has also committed to the project, budgeting $30,000 per year over the next 10 years to help with maintenance and operation of the facility.
And all three councilmen also noted another positive aspect of the new plant.
“We used local contractors and workers to do it,” Keith Smith said. “Everyone did a great job.”
“Yes, that was important, we wanted to use as much local people as we could,” Jamie Hayes added.
“When you look at it, I think there were four different local people working on it,” Josh South said. “Joe did a great job. Errol Wayne Judy built the building. Tom Stow did the fencing, and Jason Sullivan did the painting.”
“We’re pretty proud that we were able to do this without using tax dollars and we were able to use local people to do it,” Jamie Hayes said. “It’s a good thing for everybody.”