Jan 22, 2019

Iowa City Improving Plant After Violations

A wastewater treatment plant in Sioux City, Iowa, is taking steps to reduce violations and preventing more from occurring

A wastewater treatment plant in Sioux City, Iowa, is taking steps to reduce violations and preventing more from occurring
A wastewater treatment plant in Sioux City, Iowa, is taking steps to reduce violations and preventing more from occurring.

Plant supervisors are continuing with oversights and improvements aimed at preventing a repeat of the activities that resulted in numerous violations and potential state action against the city in Sioux City, Iowa. This is occurring as the court case against one former Sioux City wastewater treatment plant worker begins, according to the Sioux City Journal.

"I think we've got a lot of safeguards in place to keep people on their toes," said Mark Simms, city utilities director, to the Sioux City Journal.

Patrick Schwarte, a former shift supervisor, is expected to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Sioux City to criminal charges connected to his role in an alleged conspiracy to manipulate water sample test results and use fraudulent testing procedures to ensure the plant's discharges into the Missouri River met federal guidelines, according to the Journal.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources was tipped off to the activity, believed to have happened from 2012 to 2015.

Tom Roos, environmental specialist senior at the DNR's Spencer office, said the DNR has issued the wastewater treatment plant 15 citations. However, none of them rising to the seriousness that led to the criminal charges.

"Looking at this list, it's not a recurring thing. Ninety-nine percent of the time they do a great job," Roos said to the Journal.

He added that he has no concerns with the plant's operation. Roos also said the DNR has not increased scrutiny of the Sioux City plant.

The city is required to sample wastewater once a day to test levels of chlorine, ammonia, suspended solids, grease and numerous other chemicals and compounds and submit a monthly report to the DNR, according to the Journal.

Simms was hired as utilities director in Sep. 2015 and was not with the city when the violations at the center of the legal actions took place according to the Journal. For the first two months after his hiring, samples were taken two or three times during each of the three shifts at the plant. According to Simms, testing has since been reduced to once per shift, meaning the city is still testing three times a day, above the DNR's requirement of one daily sample.

Simms said that treating wastewater is a complex process, given the amount of industrial waste from food processors that the city’s plant receives.

The plant was built in 1961, according to the Journal. The plant receives industrial, commercial and residential wastewater from Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff, South Sioux City, North Sioux City and Dakota Dunes every day. The cleaned and treated water is discharged into the Missouri River in accordance with state and federal regulations.

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