Creating Partnerships With Contractors

Nov. 11, 2021

Design-build for industrial projects

About the author:

Ryan Callaghan is CEO of RP Constructors & CEC LLC. He is also a licensed engineer & contractor. Callaghan can be reached at [email protected]

Biosolids and wastewater are necessary byproducts of food processing facilities, specifically hog processing facilities. According to the National Pork Producers Council, there are about 60,000 pork producers nationwide that process more than 115 million hogs per year.

Each of those facilities need wastewater solutions that work to keep production lines running. If a lift station goes down, the entire plant goes down. RP Constructors, a Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based heavy civil and industrial construction company, has made it its business in all things wastewater, and frequently works with its sister company, Civil Engineers & Constructors (CEC), to design and build wastewater solutions for plants across the Midwest that help accelerate schedules and save money.

Upgrading a Decades-Old Wastewater Pretreatment Facility

RP Constructors was hired in 2019 to upgrade the wastewater pre-treatment facility for a Nebraska-based, farmer-owned hog processing facility. The current owner purchased the existing facility in 2018 and invested $150 million to upgrade the plant to compete with modern plant construction. The facility processes 10,600 head of hogs per day and was looking to add a second shift, so the upgrades needed to be done on time and on budget.

Both RP Constructors and CEC were engaged to design and build the upgrades to the wastewater pretreatment facility. The work included design and build services for the wastewater treatment, sanitary sewer, dewatering system, lift station and pump installation. Services provided included sheet pile shoring, structural concrete, equipment installation, process piping, welding, structural steel, electrical design build and system integration controls.

RP Constructors delivered the project with a strong emphasis on cost control, scheduling and quality assurance. Because RP Constructors and CEC were able to self-perform the work, the timeline was accelerated by more than a year and within budget. Drawing on its engineering and construction teams’ strengths, RP Constructors was able to offer effective cost control, quality and a compressed timeline, reducing one project’s cost in excess of $10 million.

Quickly Expediting Wastewater Lift Station Updates

RP Constructors and CEC were called in to aid another food manufacturer in Nebraska that needed a quick solution to handle wastewater, limiting disruptions to production. The client had two issues, including a wastewater lift station that was not functioning properly and an unexpected need to dewater aerobic biosolids in order to reduce trucking costs. RP Constructors and CEC designed and built solutions for both issues.

The first issue centered around a failing wastewater lift station. CEC helped design a new separate wet well and valve vault that better met the company’s waste needs and RP Constructors built the system. Waste was bypass pumped around the
existing lift station during construction and transferred to the new wet well upon completion.

The second issue RP and CEC helped this company with was dewatering its biosolids, which if properly treated can be more of a commodity than an expense. CEC drafted conceptual plans, which RP Constructors then took and priced a firm bid that in turn got the project approved by company leadership. The plant had a year to fix the problem, and RP Constructors and CEC found a solution and met the deadline.

RP Constructors and CEC were able to provide fair numbers as to what the project would cost to complete at the initial, conceptual design and budgeting stage. Because RP Constructors has experience in both design and build aspects of wastewater systems, accurate bids were given instead of a conceptual estimate. This was used by the client to sell the projects to their corporate leadership. Much of the initial conceptual design and budgeting was completed at no cost to the client.

RP Constructors and CEC self-performed land surveying, topographic surveying, design (environmental, civil, structural, process), site work, underground piping and utilities, equipment installation and process piping.

Given the amount of work that was self-performed internally, the estimates were accurate and competitive. The company was able to focus on producing food instead of worrying about its wastewater system.


Having engineers and contractors work alongside each other gives RP Constructors an advantage over its competitors when it comes to providing wastewater solutions. Because they can self-perform the work, from designing to building the solutions, there are no communication gaps, and projects are estimated accurately and completed on-time within budget.

About the Author

Ryan Callaghan