South Sioux City Sewage Spill

City crews operate a pump truck at the scene of a sewage backup south of Interstate 129 in South Sioux City on Feb. 8. The backup was the result of a failed pump at a temporary lift station in the area. 

SOUTH SIOUX CITY | The South Sioux City Council on Wednesday approved an application for a $1.5 million loan from a low-interest state loan program to fund the second half of a force main project it began late last year in response to ongoing sewer odor issues. 

"We believe that we won't need all of it, as there are maybe some pending grants," said Bob Livermore, South Sioux City's public works director. "You ask for it all, and then you can borrow only part of it."

City administrator Lance Hedquist said the project will be paid through the city sewer fund. No sewer rate increases will be needed to cover the cost, he said.

The city has contracted with Mark Albenesius Inc. for the work. Livermore said the 100-working-day project is expected to begin yet this month and conclude by the end of July. 

Mark Albenesius Inc. completed the first phase of the force main project late last year to separate wastewater from industries in the Roth Industrial Park away from the sewer line they had previously shared with residents. The second phase will ship industrial waste directly from the park to the Sioux City Wastewater Treatment Plant so that it will avoid residential areas entirely.

City officials staged the emergency project as a response to hydrogen sulfide gas issues that displaced as many as two dozen families in fall 2016. Many families have since moved back into their homes, but some remain displaced.

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More than a dozen have enlisted legal aid and plan to take action against the city or Big Ox Energy, the renewable fuels plant in the industrial park that went online shortly before the problems began. The city and Big Ox Energy allege faulty plumbing in the residences was the main factor in the odor issues, a view that many of the homeowners reject. 

The new force main will also eliminate the need for a temporary lift station that backed up twice in early February, spilling thousands of gallons of industrial waste into a ditch south of Interstate 129 in South Sioux City.

He said along with securing the loan, the city is working on applying for grants. He said the city is also working with some owners to secure easements for the force main construction. 

"We've got to get a few sign-offs yet," Livermore said. "We expect to be able to be done by the end of the week."

The Nebraska State Revolving Fund is a low-interest loan program for local municipalities. 

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