SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- A routine inspection of Sioux City's wastewater treatment plant uncovers concern over the day-to-day operations, and may put the company contracted to run the facility in hot water.
The Environmental Protection Agency paid an unplanned visit to the treatment plant on Monday. They were accompanied by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, to audit the city's pre-treatment program. Officials stayed on site for three days.
According to one investigator, there are several issues the city will need to address. Environmental Specialist Sheila Kenny, with the Iowa DNR, says the biggest problem was incomplete documentation of enforcement of the city's pre-treatment plan, along with plant capacity.
American Water has been contracted since 2004 to oversee the day to day operations at the plant, but Kenny says it's ultimately the city's responsibility to make sure the contractor is fulfilling its obligations.
Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Padgett calls problems at the plant a daily headache at City Hall.
"I think the council as a whole, and certainly the city staff have seen the wastewater treatment plant as a very expensive and very time-consuming issue for us," Padgett said.
Phase 1B of the $80 million expansion project includes renovation of the digester tanks. The lids of two of those new digesters were damaged as they were brought on-line in the last week. In a separate incident, a building on the property was flooded.
On Friday, officials said they were at odds with American Water over who is responsible for covering the cost of that flooded building and other issues. Padgett said Sioux City was weighing all of their options, and that litigation was possible.
But, later on Friday, American Water released a statement saying, "American Water has resolved this issue with the City of Sioux City, and the flooding of the building does not affect any of the taxpayers of the City."
Meanwhile, the city's Environmental Services director Ellen Myers says the insurance agency for Folley, one of the construction companies doing the expansion project, is covering the cost of the two broken digesters.
But, city leaders say there's ongoing concern about the money the community's had to pour into the plant for ongoing problems.