Underground Success

An award-winning wastewater lift station project combines community appeal with a low-cost solution that benefits ratepayers.
Underground Success
The newly renovated Juan Solomon City Park is built atop a 38 mgd lift station that helps deliver wastewater to the city’s Belmont Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility.

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On the surface, the renovated Juan Solomon City Park on the northwest side of Indianapolis looks like many city parks across America: a playground of swings and slides and climbing bars, picnic tables and tennis courts, restrooms and parking space.

There's also plenty of green space for soccer fields and walking trails, and even a community meeting room with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the park. But below the surface, unseen by park users, is a 38 mgd lift station, central to a recently completed 7-mile-long, 42-inch relief interceptor and force main project for the delivery of wastewater to the city's 300 mgd (design) Belmont Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility.


"No one would ever believe they are looking at a sewage pumping station," says Steve Nielsen, P.E., director of wet distribution engineering for Citizens Energy Group, the public charitable trust that owns the city's gas, chilled water, steam, and water and wastewater utilities.

The transformed park has landscaping that includes two green roofs and two rain gardens. A sloped green roof planted with sedum, green mantle and dragon's blood covers the community room, which has room for 50 people. A seasonal mixture of perennials dominates a flatter roof on top of the lift station. All plants were selected for compatibility of color and texture. Drainage is allowed to free-fall to a gravel infiltration bed.

A 10-by-100-foot rain garden between the playground and tennis courts was planted with sedges and perennials. Stormwater runoff is also captured in a 30-by-275-foot bioswale containing 16 types of grass and perennial plugs. The slope of the bioswale was hydroseeded with a native seed mix. Up to a foot of water collects in the swale before it flows into the stormwater system.

Best choice

Nielsen says the award-winning project is the result of collaboration between the Department of Public Works and the Parks & Recreation Department. Originally, the plan was for a gravity sewer system near the route of an existing interceptor, which follows a popular waterway known as Crooked Creek. The problem was the project would have meant significant loss of riparian vegetation that protects the streambank and wildlife habitat along the intended route.

An alternative route identified by a consulting firm would have saved the environmental resources of Crooked Creek, but it would have run through a city-owned golf course, which would have had to close for two years. Another alternative was for a force main system, but the ideal location for the lift station was at Juan Solomon City Park.

After public informational meetings, the force main system proved to be the best option: It saved the city more than $50 million on the entire project because it required a smaller-diameter main installed shallower. Even the golf course benefited, because an old maintenance building was replaced with a new and larger facility that included a discharge standpipe structure, designed to look like a chimney.

Creative design

Creativity in the project design and construction won recognition from the Indiana Chapter of the American Concrete Institute, which awarded Citizens Energy its 2012 Project of the Year Award. The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce presented an award for the Most Innovative Masonry Design Solution for Utilitarian Use.

"This was a win-win for everyone," says Nielsen. "The most cost-effective approach was a win for the ratepayers, and the park upgrades met our goal to be a good neighbor."


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