HAMMOND | A dispute over the cost of sewage treatment among five north Lake County communities has landed in court.
Griffith and Whiting officials are suing the Hammond Sanitary District to require the district to submit to arbitration over the fair distribution of the cost of purifying their communities' wastewater.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Wednesday he already has seen Whiting's litigation. He said he wasn't aware of Griffith's filing, but isn't surprised, either.
The mayor said the litigation is unnecessary because the sanitary district already is in discussions with the the Town of Highland over the same issue.
"Whiting and Griffith chose to litigate, but Highland took a different course of action by sitting down and working out the differences to arrive at a regional solution, and talks have gone pretty well so far," McDermott said.
The sanitary district treats sewage for 150,000 in Griffith, Hammond, Highland, Munster and Whiting. It is jointly owned by Hammond and Munster and services the other three communities through contracts dating back to the 1990s.
The contracts were set to run at least until 2017, but the sanitary district filed notice last month it was canceling its obligations to Griffith, Highland and Whiting to try to readjust payment terms.
The dispute has arisen from a mandate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that Hammond spend tens of millions of dollars to improve its water-pollution controls, including construction of a retention basin to stop dumping untreated wastewater into the Grand Calumet River during heavy storm events.
McDermott said Griffith, Highland and Whiting weren't paying their share of the added costs and were pumping more wastewater to Hammond than was permitted under the old contract.
Griffith officials said they have asked the Hammond Sanitary District to provide sewage flow data proving their claim, but the district hasn't responded.