Out with the old and in with the new, Rapid City Wastewater Reclamation Facility on the chopping block

The facility is receiving both state and federal help to fuel the $145,000,000 project
Rapid City Water Reclamation Facility will see $145,000,000 in upgrades.
Rapid City Water Reclamation Facility will see $145,000,000 in upgrades.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:23 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Rapid City’s population grows about a percent every year, and as more people make their way into the area, the City needs to be ready to provide essential living needs.

With tens of millions of dollars of funding at both the state and federal level, Stacey Titus, Assistant Public Works Director, says Rapid City is able to rebuild, repurpose and renovate the current Reclamation Wastewater Facility, which “has lasted approximately 10 to 12 years longer than it was designed for. We can’t get spare parts anymore.”

Maintenance David Van Cleave, Water Reclamation Superintendent, is all too familiar with having a hard time doing, because “it’s making it very difficult to keep the plant operational.”

The facility was built in 1967, and the older technology is a touch worse for wear, since “everything is basically tired,” Titus explains. “The plant is worn out.”

Van Cleave is on the same page, admitting that finding the equipment nowadays for needed maintenance is becoming both expensive, “and a lot of the parts and components are becoming almost impossible to find repairs for.”

Between a hefty amount federal COVID stimulus money and 45 million dollars from the state, Titus says he’s “not aware of a larger grant the city has ever received.” Now, they’re able to speed up what was meant to be a 10 year, multi-phase plan drawn up in 2016. “It allowed us to package this as one project at this time.”

Eddie Lopez, Project Engineer, says the project’s split up into two to four parts, and divided into northern and southern sections, with aspirations to begin fall of this year, “and then the full project will probably finish around spring of 2026.”

As the city and surrounding area grows, Titus says the plant will meet state standards until 2045, where the population is expected to pop 43-thousand more people. “So, that’s a lot of growth that’s being anticipated.”

Van Cleave, who understands the science behind it all, says technological advancements and developments in the current day focus on the biological end of breaking down the hazardous contents of the wastewater “to meet current regulations.”

Lopez acknowledged they can’t cease operation, and says smaller projects around the facility will take place in unison with the overarching 145-million dollar improvement project, “to keep the plant going until we can finish up our project and be able do the switch.” He says once things are said and done, some parts of the facility will be decommissioned, leaving room for needed updates and expansions, because “as the time comes, we’re trying not to design ourselves into a box.”

The group sarcastically says its kind of felt like they’ve been scouring eBay and using duct tape to keep things up and running. Something that leads Van Cleave to say, “yes, there have been times where we’ve been very concerned about our ability to keep the plant functional, and so I’m really looking forward to seeing these improvements go in place.”

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