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What to do with waste

Press Photo by Lisa Call Dickinson Public Works Director Skip Rapp explains the wastewater treatment process at the facility southeast of Dickinson, Thursday afternoon.

With an increasing population comes more running water and flushing toilets, and wastewater capacity has increased by almost 200 percent in the last five years, one Dickinson official said Thursday afternoon.

"When we started the project five years ago out here, our goal was to have 250,000 gallons per day of capacity," said Public Works Director Skip Rapp. "At that time, we were 1.35 million gallons per day. We're at 1.74 million per day now, so we've exceeded that goal by almost 200 percent."

Amid a growing population, Dickinson may be outgrowing its present wastewater treatment facility located southeast of Dickinson and municipal water could be inching its way closer to traveling through upgraded facilities after engineers presented a capital improvement plan during a Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall, Monday evening.

"When you start getting apartment buildings where you concentrate a large number of people in a small area, their waste is significantly higher concentration than a residential house would be," Rapp said. "We're pretty much at capacity.

"Normally you don't ever want to be that high. There probably isn't a plant around that can run at that type of level."

The strength of the organic load -- the material bacteria must break down -- is coming in at about 99 percent, Rapp said.

A wastewater treatment plant assessment started about 14 months ago, Rapp said.

The building for the master lift station, where treatment of municipal wastewater begins, is in good shape; however, equipment needs some updates.

"Moving into the next phase, we start talking about design and construction and looking at a preliminary engineering report, and that's really the first step towards the design in a large project like this," said Karla Olson, a project engineer from Ulteig Engineering in Bismarck.

However, the facilities carry a few deficiencies.

"There's some limitations because of age -- for size, access, safety issues -- so that's going to get expanded," Rapp said. "We'll add some additional horsepower for pumping capacities."

Rapp said the new facilities could last for 20 years or more with added efficiency, and would provide improved water quality along with the ability for Dickinson to grow.

The present-day price tag for the project is sitting at about $8.9 million, but once all design and engineering costs are added, it is closer to about $10.4 million.

About one-third of the project's cost will be for aeration.

Rapp said several funding options are available and are still being explored.

Several other steps will need to be taken to get to the final project, such as soil testing.

"Where it will go from here is basically the City Commission will make a decision that we're going to either do the entire project or we're going to fund the aeration side of it," Rapp said.

If the city decided to wait on the project, more wastewater odors could be drifting around the city, as the wastewater's organic strength would be heightened.

"If we can't treat the wastewater to the level that EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires us to do when we have to discharge, then we are basically in violation of our EPA permit," Rapp said.