Wet Weather Challenges

The City of Marion faces two types of problems caused by rain events and snow melt.
  • Surface water drainage problem areas are defined as areas where water from rainstorms frequently impedes mobility and limits access to homes and businesses throughout the community.
  • Surface water quality problems in the Marion area are caused by a combination of point and non-point sources of pollution. This combination of pollutant sources can contribute to a decrease in water quality in Marion's waterways during rain events and snow melt.
  • In many cases these two problems are interrelated and long-term solutions require strategic planning to avoid future complications, but for the purposes of this discussion the two classes of problems will be looked at separately.

Surface Water Drainage
The City of Marion maintains approximately 500 miles of sanitary sewer, combined sewer and separated storm sewer lines. Maintenance activities include the cleaning of catch basins and sewer lines and the replacement of damaged storm water collection structures and sewer pipes. The City continually works to identify and resolve problem surface water drainage areas. The projects implemented to address these areas vary widely in size and scope. In some cases drainage problems can be resolved by simply clearing an obstruction in a catch basin or sewer line, but in others the problem is more complex and requires the design and construction of new infrastructure. Thorough planning is required in these situations to ensure that the proposed project does not adversely impact other properties or the water quality of the receiving streams.
The City of Marion is continually working to improve our Storm water Management Program. Your comments and concerns play a vital role in this process. Please go to the Storm water Contacts page to determine which City Department is best suited to address your concerns.
Surface Water Quality
State of Indiana Water Quality Standards

The State of Indiana has developed minimum water quality standards that all waters of the state are required to meet. The Indiana Water Quality Standards rule states:
"The goal of the State is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the state."
To achieve this goal there are specific limits for various pollutants outlined in the rule. City, county, and state government agencies collect samples from streams, rivers and lakes throughout the state to determine if the water quality standards are being met.
Over the past ten to fifteen years a large number of samples have been collected from the Mississinewa River and it tributaries in the Grant County area in order to determine compliance with the Indiana Water Quality Standards. These samples were collected and analyzed by numerous government agencies and private organizations. A detailed analysis of all available sample results from the past 10 years indicates that E. coli is the only pollutant that was found in excess of the water quality standards in a significant number of the samples.
E. coli is present in the intestinal tracts of all warm-blooded animals and is used to indicate the presence of fecal matter in water. It is true that some types of E. coli can make you sick, but fecal matter can also contain an array of other bacteria and viruses causing various illnesses.
The analysis of the available data indicates that a high percentage of the samples collected from the Mississinewa River in the Grant County area after rain events contain E. coli in amounts exceeding the water quality standards. E. coli amounts in excess of the water quality standard were also observed in samples collected during dry weather periods. This leads to the conclusion that E. coli is entering the Mississinewa River through a number of different sources.

Possible Sources of E. coli in the Mississinewa River
Upstream sources
This includes all of the sources that contribute to the concentration of E. coli present in the Mississinewa River when it enters the Marion area from the upstream direction. Initial findings indicate that this source represents a significant contribution to the total E. coli pollutant load observed in the Marion area.
Waste water treatment plants
When the weather is dry the City of Marion Wastewater Treatment Plant does an excellent job treating all of Marion's sanitary sewage. But during storms or snowmelt events the amount of combined sewage in the sewer system can exceed the treatment capacity of the wastewater treatment plant. When this occurs combined sewage is discharged into the Mississinewa River from outfalls specified in Marion's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The City is working to address this issue through the Combined Sewer System Long Term Control Plan.
Combined Sewer Overflows
Combined sewers are designed to carry both sanitary sewage and rainwater in the same pipes. CSOs discharge when the volume of rainwater entering the combined sewer system causes the combination of sanitary sewage and rainwater in the system to exceed the capacity of the pipes that carry waste to the wastewater treatment plant. The points in the combined sewer system designed to relieve this excess capacity are CSO discharge points. During significant rain events combined sanitary sewage and rainwater is discharged to the Mississinewa River at these locations. The City is currently working to determine the contribution to the total E. coli load from CSO discharges. The City is working to develop a Combined Sewer System Long Term Control Plan to address the CSO issue.

Urban Storm Water
Urban storm water includes run-off from streets, parking lots, rooftops, and lawns that enters the storm water collection system through catch basins placed along city streets. The concentrations of E. coli in urban storm water are lower than some other sources, but it is still a potentially significant source because of the large volume of storm water that enters the Mississinewa River when it rains.

Failing Septic Systems
There are several thousand homes that are serviced by septic systems in Grant County. When these systems fail to operate properly untreated sewage can enter drainage tiles, the groundwater supply, or percolate to the surface and eventually enter streams that discharge to the Mississinewa River. The amount of E. coli contributed from failing septic systems is difficult to quantify. The City continues to extend sewer service to areas served by septic systems when it is appropriate and the Grant County Health Department diligently investigates citizen concerns regarding failing septic systems. It is essential to properly maintain your septic system to ensure proper operation.
To learn more about how to properly maintain your sewer system:
Purdue University - Home & Environment Septic Systems Explained

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