WATERLOO — A local government committee wants to investigate the possibility of Waterloo, Cedar Falls and surrounding communities sharing a single sewage treatment plant.
The group coordinated by the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments is looking to blow the dust off a 1973 engineering report that outlined a potential central treatment plant to serve the metropolitan area.
Waterloo and Cedar Falls, pending approval of the respective city councils, are being asked to split the $75,000 cost of having the AECOM engineering firm update the original study, which was completed by Brice, Petrides and Associates.
“It’s quite a dated document, obviously, 40-plus years old,” said INRCOG’s Brian Schoon. “But there’s still relevance to that document.
“We’re not looking at the operational, legal or financing issues at this point in time,” he said. “We’re just trying to determine whether or not the concept is still feasible.”
The original plan and most-likely current scenario would be for Cedar Falls to pipe wastewater to Waterloo’s plant on Easton Avenue. The cities of Hudson, Evansdale, Elk Run Heights and Raymond also could be included in the mix.
All of those communities operate their own plants now, with the exception of Raymond and Elk Run Heights sharing a treatment facility.
AECOM would be tasked with updating the current and projected wastewater loading in each community, exploring the infrastructure necessary to get raw wastewater to the Waterloo Water Pollution Control Facility and determining what would be required for Waterloo’s plant to handle the increased volume.
Officials in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls are facing large costs to upgrade their sewage treatment plants to comply with federal and state environmental regulations.
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Waterloo Waste Management Services Director Steve Hoambrecker said Waterloo’s plant currently is undergoing a study as part of its operating permit to find ways to reduce nutrients released into the Cedar River.
“It will be multi-million dollars, I am sure,” Hoambrecker said. “But I don’t know the exact number as we speak.”
Cedar Falls City Administrator Ron Gaines said Cedar Falls has completed its nutrient reduction plan, which shows future improvements estimated at $40 million. The plan also envisions investigating regionalization.
“Instead of having to upgrade multiple plants, why wouldn’t you go to a model like Des Moines?” Gaines said.
The Des Moines Metro Wastewater Reclamation Authority, which includes 17 metro area municipalities, counties and sewer districts, utilizes one plant for all of the jurisdictions it serves.
An agreement to fund the AECOM study is expected to be considered soon by the Waterloo and Cedar Falls councils. The report is expected to be completed in November.
Officials from both cities emphasized any move to regionalize wastewater treatment, if feasible, would take years and likely be a phased process.
“We’re a long ways away from any decision being made,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart.
The push to revisit the regional sewage treatment study grew out of meetings the cities, Black Hawk County, school districts and universities have been having over the last year to discuss sharing a variety services.