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Tea outgrows wastewater system, regionalizes

By Wendy Sweeter

Stabilization ponds on the southeast end of town will gradually go down and end when the regionalization project with Sioux Falls is complete.

While the city of Tea began conversations with the city of Sioux Falls more than five years ago on regionalizing their wastewater treatment system, construction began just a month ago.

City administrator Dan Zulkosky, who has been with the city for six years, said they were finalizing a regionalization plan with Sioux Falls when he came on board. The city decided to regionalize after realizing that their system was too small and building their own new system would cost around $37 million.

“The reason for the regional project was our wastewater system is outgrown,” he said. “It should have actually been replaced a number of years ago.”

Zulkosky notes that is difficult to predict when to upgrade a system since predicting growth cannot be precisely estimated. So, instead of putting in their own new system they chose to go with Sioux Falls for just under $10 million. The city raised the sewer rate by $10 a month as the base rate. The rate is based on gallons of water used.

“That cost makes total sense. The rates were very comparable to ours,” he said. “In the end, it’s going to be, to me, it’s going to be financially a better situation for the city.”

The city’s current system consists of six wastewater stabilization ponds on the southeast end of town.

Construction has begun behind the furthest east cell where they are working on building a lift station. They have also begun working on the connection at 69th Street in Sioux Falls on the west side of the interstate.

“That’s where they actually got started. There’s a lot of work there to get ready to connect to them and Sioux Falls has been great to work with,” Zulkosky said.

They will not make a connection until everything has been buried and installed. He expects that to be in spring 2023.

The transition will be a gradual one as they do not want to blast the system.

“We have predetermined numbers in gallons per day to start with. You can’t just drain down the ponds either,” he said. “If we just drain down the ponds, the public will be bummed because you can have a lot of odor. The lower you get in a lagoon the more odor you’re going to have.”

As they transition to the new system, the lagoons will slowly start to go down and dry up. He expects it will take five years to get the lagoons completely down. Then they will let them sit for a year to 18 months before removing them. They will keep one cell for an emergency.

“It’s certainly going to be a great thing for our community with the amount of growth we’re having,” Zulkosky said.


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