Buzzing by the waste water treatment plant shows more than controversy

Bee boxes line the property of Clay Township Regional Waste District. (Submitted photo)
Bee boxes line the property of Clay Township Regional Waste District. (Submitted photo)

By Terri Spilman

Something is abuzz at the Clay Township Regional Waste District and it’s not associated with their controversial proposal to build new sewage tanks. Surrounding the wastewater treatment facility on Mayflower Drive at the edge of the western Carmel border is a beautiful natural habitat filled with colorful wildflowers, tall prairie grass, butterflies, bird and bat houses as well as several honeybee hives that make life a little sweeter at a place not exactly renowned for its odor.

Howard Thomas, an Irving Materials Inc. concrete truck driver and beekeeper, noticed the wild flowers on the facility’s property while on a job several years ago and thought it would make the perfect home for honeybees. “At first some people thought it was odd but we have bat houses and there is a retention pond out there that has fish, frogs and turtles,” commented Utility Director, Andrew Williams.

In 2010, the facility partnered with the Indiana Wildlife Federation to plant 17 acres of native Indiana prairie grass, wildflowers, trees and plants to create a natural wildlife habitat as part of their environmentally-focused mission.

According to Williams, the nature habitat has saved money by cutting back on the cost of mowing the grounds. They are also cutting costs by replacing lighting with more efficient LED lights and have incentivized customers to go paper-less by planting a trees around the facility for every 100 that comply.

The facility has garnered several awards for their efforts including the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management Governor’s Award for “Greening the Environment” in 2012 and is also a Level 3 Certified Ecosystem Steward – the highest certification level that can be achieved through the Indiana Wildlife Federation.

Employees of the waste treatment facility are delighted to receive the succulent honey produced by their fellow “worker bees” and Thomas is glad to have a secluded space for the endangered honeybees to reproduce.

“Every time you get into a hive, you see what those insects do and what they are about. It’s actually amazing,” Thomas said.