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Monday, May 2, 2016

Council struggles on Bil-Mar wastewater

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

A cost, or a savings?

There are issues to sort through following a presentation by Sheaffer International last night over Bil-Mar's proposed wastewater treatment facility.

Meeting in a study session following the regular council meeting, city council members were both interested in the environmentally friendly process, and concerned over losing such a significant portion of their wastewater sanitary sewer budget for such a facility.

Owners of the turkey processing plant want to treat their own wastewater rather than use the city's sanitary sewer system, a plan that has city officials concerned that losing such a large customer could cause rates for citizens to increase.

"At this point in time I've got serious reservations because of what it does to the revenue flow to the city on the sanitary system," said John Call, city administrator. "It's going to have a significant impact on residential rates."

Mayor Jon Kruse said that Storm Lake has been a progressive community, and noted that the council's decision will affect where the community goes in the future.

Call said the city does care about the environment, pointing out its involvement in lake dredging, a wellhead protection program and storm sewer monitoring.

Bil-Mar's proposed system would remove 540,000 gallons of wastewater a day from the city's wastewater treatment facility.

The plant pays the city $350,000 in annual rates for treatment, about 40 percent of total revenues, Call said.

Call said even with savings from not treating Bil-Mar's wastewater, there would be a net loss of $250,000 spread over users of the wastewater facility.

Call said if Bil-Mar officials have concerns with wastewater treatment, the city would like to work with them and possibly expand the existing plant.

The manager of the Bil-Mar plant, which is owned by Sara Lee Corp., said the company will save money and will treat waste in a more environmentally friendly way.

"It's the right thing to do for the environment," said Ray Team. "Sara Lee and Bil-Mar are concerned about the environment and our effect on it."

Bil-Mar officials plan to build a new wastewater reclamation project outside Storm Lake city limits. Sheaffer International, based in Illinois, is developing the plan for the treatment facility.

Jack Sheaffer, president of the company, said some of the wastewater, rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, will be used by area farmers as fertilizer and Bil-Mar will reuse some of it for washing trucks and other purposes.

The new system will eliminate discharge of wastewater heavy in nitrates from the Raccoon River watershed, Sheaffer said.

While the city contends it would lose revenue and would have to raise rates, Sheaffer said his system would provide savings to the community.

One area would be cutting use of the city's water supply. Sheaffer said Bil-Mar would reclaim about 73 million gallons of water per year, which would be less of a demand on city resources. That in turn would help Bil-Mar expand its production.

"We're going to help so we have more than adequate water so there can be growth," he said.

However, city officials had some sticking points with Sheaffer's figures.

Sheaffer said the city puts 1 million pounds of nitrogen into the Raccoon River every year. Upon questioning by council member Denny Vaudt, Sheaffer noted that of that 1 million, 200,000 comes from the city's wastewater treatment plant and the other approximately 800,000 pounds from IBP's treatment facility.

Vaudt asked why IBP wasn't considering such a facility, especially if federal and state governments are going to start requiring testing and treatment of nitrates in the future.

"If Bil-Mar shows how it can be done, IBP will say, 'Hey, it can be done,'" Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer said that Bil-Mar will still be sending sewage to the city's wastewater plant. The proposed system would treat water that had been used in turkey processing.

"We want to use a different technique to treat our process water and we want to recycle that," he said.

That reclaimed water would be used in some industrial purposes, while much of it would go to irrigate approximately 390 acres of farmland.

Sheaffer said his treatment system is not a "pipe dream," and water reclamation is the way of the future.

"We used to relocate our wastewater, but people downstream don't want it anymore," he said. "We have to look at sewage as a resource, not something you want to throw away."

While council members and city staff did not argue with the potentially positive environmental impact, the question of revenue still came up. Call said even if Bil-Mar reclaims 200,000 gallons of water a day, no further savings will come to the city's proposed water treatment plant.

"We can't build a 5.8 million gallons a day plant instead of a 6 million gallons a day plant," he said.

Sheaffer was a little surprised at the reaction.

"I really thought you'd be lauding what Bil-Mar wants to do," he told the council.

Towards the end of the two hour plus meeting, Mayor Kruse told the city council what its role will be.

"The question behind all this is do we allow Bil-Mar to take their wastewater out of the system?"

Kruse asked for all the parties involved to sit down and see exactly what the differences in opinion are.

In other news:

* Insituform Technologies of Chesterfield, Mo., was awarded the contract for the 2003 Perimeter Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Project in the city. The winning bid was $425,889.

The project includes the installation of approximately 1,600 feet of 18-inch piping to extend an existing sanitary sewer main, while rehabilitating approximately 3,500 feet of existing line.

* The city council passed the second ordinance to install a traffic light at the intersection of North Lake Avenue and C-49. The traffic signal is being installed in anticipation of increased traffic following the opening of a Wal-Mart Supercenter next year.

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