Sioux City leaders get first-hand look into wastewater treatment process
SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -
It's often the first impression the city of Sioux City makes.
For years, city leaders have tried to control the odor.
In fact, it was debated during a city council meeting a few months ago.
That meeting led leaders to the city's wastewater treatment plant, Thursday.
The goal of Thursday's tour was to see how the plant operates, and identify any upgrades that are needed.
"Coming down to the plant and visualizing the plant, seeing the bio media filter field that helps reduce odors was really important I think for me and to understand overall," said city councilmember Pete Groetken.
The morning began with workers describing the plant's dewatering trial.
It's replacing old equipment with better equipment to separate liquids from solids.
Plant officials say having city leaders visit helps them get a better idea of what they do at the plant.
While many may have an idea of what happens once waste gets to the plant, they may not know all the details.
It all begins with the flush of a toilet. But, few of us know what comes next.
"People might drive by the plant and say that place smells today or what goes on there," said Jim Maynes, superintendent of the Sioux City Wastewater Treatment Plant. "All they can see are some buildings. But, it is a complicated process from what happens when the water leaves the household, leaves the industry and by the time it hits the river.
Employees of the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Sioux City deal with that process everyday.
“I've been an outdoorsman ever since I can remember," said Maynes. "I love to go canoeing down a river. So water quality is important to me. And it's important to everyone here. So we all really respect what we do for a living, how we can impact what's going on here."
12.5 million gallons of waste flows into the plant per day.
There is a screening process to get out anything that may have slipped through the system, upstream.
From there it goes to a settling process.
Sludge settles to the bottom and the clear water from that will travel on through the system and be treated later through an activated sludge process.
In that process, you have bacteria dependent on oxygen, which reduces organics and oxygen within the water.
That is required by the plant's permit from the state.
From there, the water is pumped over and thickened.
The water then flows through a set of clarifiers, and into the river.
The sludge originally separated from the water, goes onto some anaerobic digesters where the sludge is heated up to around 95 degrees.
Bugs will begin to eat the food that is in the waste.
Biogas is produced and reused within the facility.
The plant uses 800 gallons of chlorine each day during disinfection season.
By law, that process is required from March 15th through November 15th.
Plant leaders are working on improvements, every day.
This comes almost three months after state officials confirmed they plan to take action against two former Sioux City wastewater treatment plant employees.
The action follows an ongoing investigation by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the EPA into releases from the plant.
Former plant supervisor Jay Niday, and supervisor Pat Schwarte, lost their state certifications after improper disinfection practices.
They were fired in June.
The plant's current supervisor says, now, they are doing things above and beyond what the DNR is requiring.
"We're sampling several times a day even though they have not asked us to do so," said Maynes. "We just want to prove that we are meeting the requirements. Anyone that asks, we can say here's our data. And hopefully that'll clear things up."
The two former employees increased chlorine levels on days where they were sampled for bacteria to meet state requirements as opposed to consistently being up to par.
That's important because the water is discharged into the Missouri River.