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Behind the scenes: Inside the Sioux Falls water treatment plant

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 4:39 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Imagine living in Sioux Falls in the 1880s when your water supply from the city often included sand and shells in the untreated water.

By the early 1900′s Sioux Falls had its first water treatment plant which continues to meet the needs of a growing community. Environmental Engineer Tim Stefanic says we have a supply from several sources.

“We bring water in from both the groundwater which is the Big Sioux aquifer and the middle of Skunk Creek aquifer,” said Stefanic. “We sometimes bring in water from the Big Sioux River.

A series of large tanks have a specific job in treating the water, starting with softening it by 50 percent.

“We then filter the water to remove any remaining particles, we add a little bit of fluoride to the water. Then we add chlorine to the water to kill all the bacteria and the viruses,” said Stefanic. “That goes through a storage reservoir out front in front of the treatment plant and then also the big blue tank. If you drive by the water plant you’ll see the big blue tank.”

From intake to the water pipes, there is frequent testing. Chlorine, PH, and the turbidity or the cloudiness of the water are tested every two hours. Flouride is tested daily, and they post the results to the city’s website.

Inside the control center, the flow of water is regulated.

“They can turn a well on and off. They can bring that water into the facility. They can observe what’s happening in their treatment process. We’ve got water quality sensors, we’ve got monitors throughout each of the basins and the filters,” said Stefanic.

Water towers are constantly being monitored.

“We fill the water towers and making sure that there is enough water out in the community for whatever usage, they want to use that water for,” said Stefanic.

Security is monitored by the staff 24 hours a day.

“We all have cameras on them, all of the doors have security systems so we know when they’re being opened or closed,” said Stefanic.

In a heatwave like this, there’s a high water demand.

“City of Sioux Falls, we are currently treating about 38 million gallons of water today,” said Stefanic. Most of that is being used on irrigating lawns. Wintertime we treat about 17 to 18 million gallons per day.”

To meet the demand, there’s more water brought in.

“We also purchase water from the Lewis and Clark regional water system,” said Stefanic.

Just underneath your car, there could be water pipes supplying the neighborhood.

“So almost every street in the city of Sioux Falls has a pipe that’s underneath it,” said Stefanic.

Last year, the water treatment plant treated 8 billion gallons of water. With recent retirements, the plant is looking to hire operators with a minimum of a two-year degree and a background in science and chemistry. More details are on the city’s website.

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