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Panel backs downtown sewer update

– The Fort Wayne Board of Works approved a resolution Wednesday that will allow for the separation of sewers in the downtown area.

The $2.6 million project will separate storm and sanitary sewers with new storm sewer extensions along Pearl, Main, Berry and Harrison streets as well as Fairfield Avenue, Fulton and Van Buren streets, and Broadway.

The project will be advertised for bids in July. Construction is expected to begin in September and might affect traffic near several major intersections.

Like in many communities, Fort Wayne’s sewers were built as a combined system carrying away both sanitary sewage and stormwater.

But during heavy rain, the system overflows, dumping an estimated 1 billion gallons of raw sewage a year into the rivers, mostly the St. Marys and Maumee.

To combat the problem, the city is separating storm sewers so they can flow directly to the rivers without bringing sanitary sewage with them. In areas where that’s not possible, the city is building capacity to handle the larger flows during rain.

The project approved Wednesday will reduce the combined sewer overflows in the downtown area, city officials said.

It’s also just one piece in a massive, 18-year, $240 million project designed to upgrade the city’s river water quality.

Last fall, officials said the entire project, begun in 2008, was running on time.