EPA hits Dubuque with big penalty
May 2, 2011

The EPA has reached an agreement with the city of Dubuque, Iowa, that results in a $205,000 fine and orders for $3,000,000 in improvements to Dubuque's sewer system. Dubuque is one of about a dozen Iowa cities where the EPA has taken action on sanitary sewer overflows, generally the result of combined stormwater and sanitary sewers that date back many decades. Stormwater sewer separation projects in our area have involved the installation of new pump stations, solids-screening facilities, and flap gates and sluice gates in several places.

Government blows up levee in downstate Illinois
May 3, 2011

The US Army Corps of Engineers has blown up part of a levee near Cairo, Illinois (the southernmost point in the state), in an effort to protect the town itself. The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers come together at Cairo, and the hole in the levee that was blown up flooded a huge area of cropland -- about 130,000 acres, or about 200 square miles -- in an effort to ease pressure on the levees protecting the city. Areas downstream along the Mississippi River are likely to suffer massive flooding for some time to come, especially because the difficult calculus involved in predicting river behavior remains as challenging as any weather forecast. The dynamics of a river's flow change with its depth, and the huge number of rivers feeding into the Mississippi make any long-range predictions extremely difficult.

We help communities upstream in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins with flood protections, including the water-control gates that make levees possible, and the reinforcement geotextiles that help earthen levees keep their shape.

A better summer for Lincoln's water supply
May 5, 2011

After several years of widespread water restrictions due to drought, 2011 is looking to be the second consecutive year without water restrictions for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska. The city's water supply is in good shape, and its transmission capacity has been expanded, so the mayor and the chief engineer at the Lincoln Water System have agreed that water restrictions aren't likely to be needed.

Like many communities, though, Lincoln has some older infrastructure that the water utility would like to replace, and that will require the cooperation of water users, who may need to pay a little more in order to ensure sufficient fire protection and a healthy supply of clean, safe drinking water. We don't have to tell stories in most of America today about city centers burning up because water can't be found, or about cholera epidemics because of contaminated water -- because our municipal drinking-water infrastructures are mature and supply lots of safe water. But it's important to reinvest carefully in keeping that infrastructure up to date so that the tragedies of the past remain in the past.

"Monumental flood" on the Mississippi River
May 6, 2011

It was apparent way back in February that flooding along the Mississippi River was going to be severe this year, and now it's so bad that counties in Mississippi are being preemptively declared disaster areas in anticipation of the floodwaters making their way south. We stand ready to ship flood-cleanup pumps to customers who need them, and to help with long-term flood-control projects in the future.

EPA orders big Chicago River cleanup
May 12, 2011

The EPA has ordered the state of Illinois to either upgrade water-quality standards for portions of the Chicago River in metropolitan Chicago, or stand aside as the agency imposes them under Federal Clean Water Act authority. The EPA indicates that it's going to expect the Chicago wastewater-treatment authority to start disinfecting the wastewater it discharges into the river, which is a step the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has strongly opposed in the past, arguing that taxes would have to rise by about 15% in order to accommodate new treatment expectations. The EPA wants the river to be swimmable, and the MWRD says that's not the purpose of the river. Chicago is the only major metropolitan area where wastewater effluent isn't disinfected before discharge.

Though most communities have nothing close to the flows or treatment issues faced by Chicago, we can with a wide range of treatment and disinfection options, including chlorination tablets, gaseous chlorine, and ultraviolet disinfection. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Auditor questions Xenia's financial future
May 17, 2011

The Xenia Rural Water District, which serves a large portion of western central Iowa, was the subject of a report by the State Auditor's office, which includes this critical line: "The conditions described in the third paragraph of this report raise substantial doubt about the Districtís ability to continue as a going concern". The district's chair told the Des Moines Register that they're trying to restructure district's debt, but that they'll likely require state assistance. A year ago, Xenia was looking to be acquired by the Des Moines Water Works, but nothing more has been said publicly about such a plan for over a year.

Utilities, municipalities, and rural water districts having funding difficulties may be interested in some of the major equipment leasing options available through some of our leading manufacturers, including Gorman-Rupp. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Celebrating National Public Works Week
May 18, 2011

The City of West Des Moines will be celebrating Public Works Week with a family event tomorrow in Valley Junction (about four miles from our office), where community residents will be invited to learn all about the public-works process. In West Des Moines, Public Works crews oversee stormwater and municipal wastewater collections, as well as street maintenance, solid waste, and snow plowing, among many other tasks. West Des Moines has two major lift stations using Gorman-Rupp pumps, and a brand new slide gate installation underway with Golden Harvest. We are pleased to support the public-works infrastructure in the community where we work and live.

US Army Corps of Engineers will continue Cedar Rapids flood-defense design
May 19, 2011

The US Army Corps of Engineers will continue to work on flood protection for Cedar Rapids, even though the organization faces budget cuts. The Corps is budgeted to spend about $12 million on the design of flood-control projects for Cedar Rapids, which was hit hard by the floods of 2008. The Corps district office in Omaha has found good use for Golden Harvest flap and sluice gates for flood protections in western Iowa, and we look forward to having the same opportunity to serve eastern Iowa as flood protection improvements continue there.

The Mississippi River flood of 2011
May 20, 2011

The colossal flooding along the Mississippi River this year set new records at Natchez and Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the river remains above flood stage from southern Missouri all the way south, where New Orleans is now getting the floodwaters. The river has crested upstream in Baton Rouge.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is using the Morganza Floodway to alleviate pressure on the Mississippi River by diverting floodwaters through the floodway (basically, a shortcut over land) into a separate river basin. Satellite images show that there's a lot of water already making its way across the floodway from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya River.

For an historical perspective on the events this year, the National Weather Service has an interesting history of downstream Mississippi River flooding and its effects in Louisiana.

We can help you with stormwater and flood-control products of many types, including flood gates and high-volume flood-control pumps. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

A springtime that's been anything but peaceful
May 23, 2011

The heartbreaking news of a deadly tornado in Joplin, Missouri, is just one more entry on a long list of terrible storms that have affected the Midwest this year. There's widespread flooding in North Dakota and we've had several tornadoes in Iowa, along with storms that have dropped more than three inches of rain in 24 hours. Years like this one serve to remind us just how important it is for communities to make preparations for major stormwater events, and to ensure that backup systems -- like generators and engine-driven power supplies -- are available to keep pump stations operating in case of disaster. People rely upon their municipal water sources for fire protection and essential drinking water, just as they rely upon their municipal sewer systems to prevent disease and contamination. And people need those services more than at any other time when they're recovering from a disaster.

Omaha wants Federal help with sewers
May 24, 2011

Omaha is working on a project to separate its stormwater sewers from its sanitary sewers -- a project that isn't very sexy, but which is intended to make the Missouri River safer and cleaner for people living downstream. The project to separate the sewers was mandated by the EPA, but the cost currently falls directly on the city. At a recent meeting, Omaha mayor Jim Suttle asked US Senator Mike Johanns for help defraying the cost, calling the project an "unfunded Federal mandate", according to the Omaha World-Herald. The mayor has gained a lot of attention for looking for alternative revenue sources to pay for the sewer-separation project, which is likely to cost almost $2 billion.

Sewer separation projects are a major issue in our area, and we've contributed to the solutions in places like Des Moines. We'll continue to do so with products like sluice gates and bar screens, and we are available to help with questions from other communities facing similar issues.

Missouri River heads into "uncharted territory"
May 25, 2011

Today's Omaha World-Herald carries a foreboding story about the Missouri River, saying that record flows are going to be released from upstream dams before the river splits Iowa and Nebraska, and that the river will run several feet higher than normal in many places as a result. Flooding has already begun upstream, and additional rain is only going to compound the problem. People living in southwestern Iowa are going to be protected better than ever before, thanks to a remarkable effort by Golden Harvest to deliver flood-control gates to a project by the US Army Corps of Engineers and contractor Weston Solutions. Only time will tell whether the surge coming down the Missouri River will end up causing additional suffering downstream after it joins the Mississippi River at St. Louis. But it's already been noted that floodwaters near Nebraska City could close off Iowa Highway 2, which links the two states. The river was high even back in late March, when the photo below was taken:

Missouri River at Nebraska City

We can help you with flood-control gates, as well as many other products for flood control and stormwater management. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Unanimous approval for rule to require pipeline cleanup
May 26, 2011

The Nebraska state legislature unanimously approved a bill today requiring any company installing or operating an interstate oil pipeline to restore the land, natural resources, and vegetation disturbed by the construction or use of the pipeline. The bill was immediately signed by the Governor. The bill, LB629, is an obvious effort to impose state supervision over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline before the legislature adjourns for the rest of the year. The pipeline is a project of the TransCanada Corporation, to transport oil from the oil sands of Alberta to the refineries of the US Gulf Coast. Opponents of the plan to build the pipeline are concerned that its design and operation could threaten the Ogallala aquifer, which is an essential water resource for the state. The pipeline company argues that the risk is very small and any leaks could be cleaned quickly.

Water resources, once contaminated, can take decades to be made safe again. That's why many facilities use geomembranes to provide secondary containment of equipment like electrical transformers and other items that can leak lubricants and chemicals. Secondary containment can be a very effective and economical way to protect natural resources like water supplies. Contact us for more information.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised May 2011