Sioux City wastewater treatment plant (copy)

The Sioux City Council has voted to approve ordinance changes that will increase Sioux City sanitary sewer rates.

SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council voted Monday night to approve ordinance changes that will increase Sioux City sanitary sewer rates.

The increase, which will go into effect Aug. 1, will raise sewer rates for the sister cities by 10 percent and Sioux City's residential and commercial customers by 3 percent.

The City Council voted 5-0 Monday for the ordinance that has been in consideration for the past two weeks. 

"Sewer rates are dramatically different than what the staff proposed originally," Mayor Bob Scott said. "We're going to go slow, and this will give us a chance to talk to the sister cites, talk to the major industrial users, redefine what an industrial user is."

Initially, customers in the sister cities were possibly facing a roughly 70 percent increase, after HDR of Des Moines conducted a cost of service study to identify current and near-future costs to treat various wastewater constituents.

After the council's vote, Scott made it clear that he was happy that number was knocked down to what it is for both industrial users in the Sioux City area and for private citizens. 

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"The people, it's at a minimum," Scott said, referencing the 3 percent increase for citizen customers. "It's a minimal on most of our citizens right now, so the non-large industrial users are not going to be affected very much."

The increase of sanitary sewer rates is a direct result of the $3.1 million that Big Ox Energy owes Sioux City. Following Big Ox's fallout, the energy company owes millions in wastewater treatment fees, late charges and fines.

On April 30, the plant's wastewater treatment operations were shut down after its wastewater discharge permit was not renewed by the city of Sioux City. The Wisconsin-based company denies that it is the cause of Sioux City's proposed rate increase.

"There's no question, they owe us (millions)," Scott said. "If we had that cash in the bank, we wouldn't be looking at a rate increase today."

Scott said that the council will continue to work with industrial users in and around the city for the next year in order to continue studying the sanitary sewer rates and the best way to increase them.

"We'll collect enough money to keep our bonds in check, but yet not collect so much that we could have a problem with some of the industry around here, causing them to have great concerns," Scott said. 

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