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Wastewater Dept. Implements Rate Increases Amid Facility Upgrade to Maintain Compliance

Sioux Center, IA

To confront changing Department of Natural Resources regulations, an Iowa wastewater plant used a 3D model to gather community and professional feedback, which guided the new plant’s construction while maintaining compliance.

Topics Covered

Waste Management
Water Quality


Initial: 26.5 Million USD


Revolving loan funds

Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Project Status

Operational since 2020

Gov Champion

City of Sioux Center

Problem Addressed

Sioux Center Wastewater department needed to update its treatment plant to abide by new regulations for ammonia, metals, and disinfection levels.

The local wastewater treatment plant treats over one million gallons of wastewater each day, serving more than 2,500 customers.

When The Iowa Department of Natural Resources changed its regulations for ammonia, metals, and disinfection of wastewater, the department needed to confront its aging infrastructure in order to keep compliance. In addressing its aging treatment plant, the department wanted to plan for the future while also complying with not only the new regulations, but also the State of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction strategy. In doing so, the department knew that the community would face rate increases. It was crucial that the community was kept informed about the facility upgrades and increased rates as a result.

Solutions Used

The community built a future-friendly facility to maintain wastewater compliance.

The improvements to the wastewater treatment facility were multifaceted during planning and construction and continue to be complex as it moves forward. This project was in development for about five years with a complete and thorough planning process. Coordination was needed to update city utility rates, and work with industries to explain how rates and capital charges were being taken into consideration. Public relations were crucial in explaining the project process, why the permit limits were being enacted by the DNR, why rates were going up, and what is going to happen in the future.

There was also complexity in designing and building a $26.5 million project in a community of 7,000 people. This project consisted of 700 tons of steel, 3,000 cubic yards of concrete demolition, 8,000 cubic yards of concrete used, 24,000 feet of pipe, 30,000 concrete blocks, 50,000 cubic yards of excavation, 55,000 bricks, and 150,000+ labor hours. Extensive coordination needed with all project parties from design to construction through start-up.

The City of Sioux Center had to keep the existing plant running during the construction of the new facility. Upon start-up of the new biological process, Bolton & Menk planned for a way to run partially treated wastewater through the old facility to meet discharge limits until the new wastewater treatment facility was fully operational. Elaborate communication with the operators and the city occurred to keep the existing plant working properly during the replacement process. A new wastewater plant requires time for the necessary waste-eating bacteria to grow, so scheduling was a critical aspect of the planning and construction of the facility.

This project continues to be complex as a permit renewal is completed. The city must regulate the process of metals that come from area industries and how to comply with those metals. Metals are not treated in wastewater, so the city is working with the community on how to handle metals and locate the source of where the metals are coming from. In the new permit, there will also be new chloride limits requiring coordination with drinking water treatment and ion exchange softeners.



The project met stringent Iowa DNR permit rules while improving water quality in the Sioux Center area


The project effectively communicated the need for an updated wastewater treatment facility through an interactive 3D model, allowing residents to build consensus


The city now has an operational, future-looking plant intended to adopt to every-changing guidelines


A community-favored design was created as a result of thorough resident outreach


The department was able to keep the facility up and running even during construction

Lessons Learned


Public relations was crucial to gathering feedback from community members and communicating about rate increases

Something Unique

A state-of-the-art 3D design software was used to produce a realistic model of the treatment facility to allow operators, the public utilities department, and council to easily understand the improvements. The 3D model matched the plans, as they were developed from the original detailed engineering drawing. Using the model allowed for input from the everyday resident yet contained technical detail for a licensed wastewater operator to see specific equipment layouts.

Who Should Consider

Small or medium cities working to improve their aging wastewater facilities, meet nutrient reduction and disinfection goals, and provide a facility to protect the environment and last years into the future.

Last Updated

Mar 11th, 2022
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