By Tyler Molatore, Orenco Systems®, Inc.
Straight pipes, failed drainfields, polluted lakes, out-of-compliance discharge permits, and several other indicators of wastewater management issues are widespread throughout Iowa’s rural communities. In fact, Iowa Department of Natural Resources has identified more than 500 small communities that lack adequate sewer infrastructure to meet today’s environmental standards.
Unlike sizeable municipalities, small communities face unique challenges to solving their wastewater problems. Houses are scattered, flows are low and highly variable, and, most notably, funding options are limited, especially with the expiration of federal and state assistance programs in the mid-90s. In addition, full-time operators are uncommon; operators are typically hired part-time or serve in other capacities, such as road superintendent or community board member. For all these reasons, conventional wastewater solutions — with their full-time operations, complex controls, and large up-front capital costs — make sewering small communities financially difficult, if not impossible.