Iowa suing Sioux City over wastewater scheme, river pollution

The lawsuit alleges Sioux City’s facility manipulated and misled the Iowa DNR
The Sioux City Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The Sioux City Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.(Courtesy: City of Sioux City)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 10:26 AM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - The state of Iowa is suing the city of Sioux City over wastewater.

A lawsuit filed Friday accuses the city of misleading state officials by manipulating test results and discharging polluted water into the Missouri River at times between March 2012 and June 2015.

The state claims Sioux City’s wastewater treatment facility would properly disinfect wastewater only on days when samples for E. coli contamination were taken and submitted to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The suit alleges the city wanted to increase its treatment capacity without having to make a significant capital investment.

The DNR says it was made aware of the fraudulent testing procedures in 2015 from an anonymous complaint that they later discovered came from a manager at the plant. The agency claims that at the same time the city was using the fraudulent testing procedure, it was touting the effectiveness of the plant to try to get the DNR to raise its capacity rating, so it recruit more wastewater from business and industry.

“The city potentially endangered human lives and wildlife by violating water-quality rules and perpetrating a fraud to conceal its employees’ actions,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who filed the lawsuit in Woodbury County on behalf of the state and the DNR.

The state asks the court to assess a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each day of violation and issue a permanent injunction preventing the city from further violations of state law and its treatment permit. According to the lawsuit, the city continues to violate permit limits for ammonia and chlorine.

The state put this case against Sioux City on hold in 2016 while a federal investigation was underway. The former treatment plant superintendent, Jay Niday, recently pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and falsifying or providing inaccurate information. Last year he was sentenced to three months in prison and was fined $6,000. Patrick Schwarte, a former supervisor, also pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to two years probation and fined $5,000.

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