Grease traps, dry cleanups and spill prevention are some of the techniques and tools that area businesses are using to improve the quality of wastewater they send to the local treatment plant in Sioux City.
Their efforts have paid off: At first, only 14 percent made it one quarter without a violation. Now, that success rate is 44 percent, according to Kelly Kistner, who manages the plant's pretreatment program and began tracking compliance in early 2001.
Kistner visits the 16 permitted industries each week day, checking wastewater and taking random samples three times a week. He tells the company if he notices extra matter or an unusual color that may indicate trouble.
"The biggest problem I have with my industries is, when people do cleanups they take shortcuts - they pull the screen that keeps solids out of the stream,'' said Kistner, also the environmental quality manager for U.S. Filter. "The successful ones require a dry cleanup prior to a wet.''
Sioux City's wastewater treatment plant deals with effluent from South Sioux City, Neb., North Sioux City and Dakota Dunes, S.D., in addition to that from Sioux City.
A number of companies are passing the one-year mark without violating their wastewater permits, which are issued under federal guidelines.
"It's rare a company can go that long without a violation,'' said Aaron Kraft, the city's assistant environmental services director. "Stuff happens - not illegally - (for example) if they have an extra cleanup. It's the nature of the business.''
In South Sioux City, two plants have passed the 12-month mark: Sara Lee Bakery Group and BPI Inc. Noel Simpson, Sara Lee plant manager, said adjustments in cleaning practices have led to less grease, oil and solids going down the drain.
"There's a two-way dialogue taking place between us and U.S. Filter,'' Simpson said. "If we think something is going to occur, if Roto-Rooter cleans out a drain (releasing extra material), we give U.S. Filter a call.''
Getting corporations to spend money is difficult, Kistner said. But violations are costly: Fines range from 4.6 cents to 80 cents a pound and are paid to the city.
If 66 percent of a plant's samplings exceed its permit, it's considered a major violator under Environmental Protection Agency standards, Kraft said.