Iowa Sewer Plant Repairs Will Raise Utility Bills

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Residents of Clarinda, Iowa will see an increase in their sewer bills thanks to a sewer plant repair project. The city was forced to move forward with the renovations to a local wastewater treatment facility after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued strict regulations.

Fox Engineering’s Steven Troyer met with the City Council two weeks ago to review the regulations and the condition of the plant in question. Troyer proposed an $11.7 million upgrade to bring the city to compliance. The council approved the measure.

The wastewater facility was built in 1954 and was last upgraded in 1996. Simple trenchless sewer repair is not enough to fix the problem. The facility must undergo extensive renovations to meet the state’s new regulations.

Gary McClarnon, City Manager, said that a 20-year loan to fund the project would increase sewer bills by about $30 per month. A 30-year loan would increase bills by $25, but would result in higher interest rates and more money paid over the life of the loan.

The sewer bill increases would come through after the bonds are issued to fund the project. Construction is expected to start in 2019 and will take approximately two years to complete.

Gordon Kokenge, Mayor of Clarinda, says the project will “put a real burden” on some of the local residents.

“I guess what I’m doing is questioning why Clarinda? How about all the other communities in the state of Iowa?” Kokenge asked. “And where is the funding going to come from? … If the state of Iowa is demanding that, then they should help foot the bill.”

A representative of the Iowa Rural Water Association said the regulations went into effect in 2006.

The wastewater treatment facility is only designed to treat 1.78 million gallons per day and has a maximum flow rate of 3.43 million gallons per day. Between January 2010 and November 2016, there were 116 days where a bypass was recorded due to overcapacity.

On those days, more flow passed through the facility than it could treat. As a result, the wastewater was forced to bypass the plant and be discharged into a nearby stream untreated.

The renovations would address the bypass issue. Permit compliance and age were two other deficiencies Fox Engineering noted in its review of the plant.

Deterioration is a problem in the 60-year-old plant, and much of the equipment is well past its shelf life, said Troyer.

Fox Engineering’s proposal for expanding and refurbishing the plant would cost the city $10, 518, 000. The city is also required to meet the nutrient reduction strategy, which would bump the cost to over $14 million.

The nutrient reduction strategy would reduce the levels of phosphorous and nitrogen being discharged by the facility. Additional facilities must be added to meet these requirements.

Rather than going this route, Troyer suggested that the city make a switch to a batch reactor facility. The facility would come at a cost of around $11.6 million. The change would allow the city to remain compliant with all permit and nutrient reduction strategy requirements.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.