Mount Vernon positively impacted by completion of Aventine plant

By Holly Jessen | January 20, 2011

Just a few years ago, Mount Vernon, Ind., had a water problem. The town’s water treatment facility was maxed out—residents building new homes outside the city limit had to look elsewhere for water because the city didn’t have the capacity to add new customers, said John Tucker, mayor.

Today the water treatment facility has doubled in capacity, thanks in part to the newly completed Aventine Renewable Energy Inc. ethanol plant. The 113 MMgy facility started commissioning in early January and is currently taking in about 1 million gallons of water a day, according to Chuck Gray, Mount Vernon’s water superintendant. At full capacity the plant will take in between 1 million and 1.5 million gallons of water daily.

Mount Vernon, population just under 8,000, started the project to update its water treatment facility before Aventine filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and halted construction on the Mount Vernon and Aurora, Neb., plants in 2009. Although the update was needed, one of the main reasons for doing it was to supply water to the ethanol plant, which will be its biggest water user. The plan was to use revenues from the ethanol plant to pay for the project and complete additional upgrades.  However, when the company went bankrupt, the city was forced to compensate by increasing fees for other water users by about 20 percent.  “So it negatively impacted the whole town when the plant declared bankruptcy,” Gray told EPM.

Aventine announced in March 2010 that it was emerging from bankruptcy and would resume construction on both plants. Now that the Mount Vernon plant is up and running the city will be able to move on with its water treatment facility improvement project, Gray said. A temporary intake structure where water is drawn from the Ohio River will be upgraded to a permanent structure.

There are other positives to having the ethanol plant producing, Tucker said. Although the town is fortunate enough to be located near a lot of big employers, including a plastic plant and the Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon, it’s always good news to add more jobs. There are reportedly 50 full-time workers at the plant.

It’s been nice to see all the activity at the plant in recent weeks, Gray said. There have been a lot of grain trucks traveling to and from the plant. And, although some residents were a bit worried about what the plant might smell like, the reality is refreshing. “It smells like fresh baked bread,” Gray told EPM.