Inside South Sioux City’s new wastewater treatment plant

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:14 PM CST
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SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (KTIV) - South Sioux City, Nebraska’s brand new $45 million wastewater treatment facility is nearly done.

The project was necessary after neighboring Sioux City said it doesn’t want to provide wastewater treatment to South Sioux City’s industrial businesses. Because of this, South Sioux City was left with little choice: Build its own wastewater treatment plant, or risk Sioux City cutting them off. And build they did -- a brand new facility right next to the Missouri River.

“It had to be built because we were the industries were kicked off the Sioux City system. So we wanted to make sure that we had a good quality wastewater plant for them,” said Lance Hedquist, the city administrator.

You may not know it but the majority of the work to treat the wastewater is actually done by bugs. Bugs will live in the lagoons where the wastewater comes into the system. Those bugs will then eat oil and grease and other substances before the wastewater is sent through the rest of the system.

“So a wastewater treatment will treat everything that goes down your drain. It’s not for consumption. It’s just a way to get rid of all the fat, oil and greases and other byproducts and get it back into the water system,” said Nick Milbrodt, the resident project engineer.

After the sludge is eaten by bugs in the lagoons, it travels through pipes, where the gas is burnt off to keep the lagoons unfrozen. Then, the sludge goes through a relatively rare secondary treatment featuring smaller bugs.

If it’s clean, it’ll be sent into the Missouri River.

“So we are utilizing a covered lagoon system, one the big thing is to capture any gases, that way, odors don’t get permeated around the site, and it should be a very clean area,” said Milbrodt.

Another byproduct of the system will be fertilizer, which local farmers will be able to use once the plant comes online. The plant will conduct tests within the next two months and is expected to become operational in June.

It’s important to remember the wastewater plant won’t create drinking water, but will instead treat it to an acceptable level so the water can be returned to the river.

Right now, the plant will only handle industrial waste, meaning residential waste from South Sioux City will still continue to be treated across the border in Sioux City. Of the $45 million cost, about $17 million was covered by grants.

While the city paid up-front, the cost of the plant will be covered by the users. In other words, the industrial plants will pay a sewer fee once the plant becomes active.

However, the city hopes to expand the plant to cover all waste, including residential waste, in the future.