The Sioux Falls City Council is considering several amendments to the wastewater regionalization ordinance this week that would help stabilize rates for homeowners in Sioux Falls and several surrounding communities.
Right now, Renner, Prairie Meadows, Brandon and Harrisburg are using the waste water facility in Sioux Falls—just one of several city services that are utilized by surrounding communities.
"We serve a five county area—Lake, Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha and Turner County. There are approximately 245-250,000 people in that five county area," said Sioux Fall's Landfill Superintendent Dave McElroy.
In the past, nearly every small town in South Dakota had its own city dump and lagoons for waste water, but with time, population growth and new federal regulations, regional waste systems have become the most economical approach for both small and large communities.
It's why many communities have started sharing the burden of expensive services like libraries, water systems and landfills.
"Anything can be looked at on a regional basis, you've got transit systems, water systems…I know some communities share public works departments, they share equipment because some of the equipment that we purchase is fairly expensive," said Bryan Read, Brandon's City Administrator.
"It would be well in excess of 50 million and probably approaching 100 million," said Mark Perry, Sioux Falls' Wastewater Superintendent.
‘This entire area, probably hundreds of millions of dollars," said McElroy. "We are right now just constructing cell three; we have four to five million dollars worth of costs into that one cell, with plans to build nine more cells in the near future."
Along with the initial investment of building these facilities, there's also the continued expense of keeping up with ever-changing federal regulations.
"We have state permits and federal permits, we have air quality permits, waste water permits…now all the modern landfills have to have liners and leach reduction systems," said McElroy.
"Each one of those add-ons cost money and sometimes its very difficult to retro fit your existing facility to meet the new standards, so a larger regional facility makes sense so that some of those regulations from the EPA can be eaten a little bit or hidden in the system," said Read.
The more customers you have with your system, the more you can stabilize your rates and spread out those costs that come in the future over a broader customer base," said Perry.
"We are actually a rate-based facility, there are no tax dollars that support the land fill, they are all based on the amount of garbage coming through…so the more waste coming in the more money you have to build a modern designed landfill," said McElroy.
Every regional customer using the Sioux Falls landfill or waste water facility pays the same rate whether they live one mile from the facility or 10 miles; however, surrounding cities also have to pay to get their waste products to the Sioux Falls facilities, which can translate into slightly higher rates for customers in surrounding communities.