IOWA CITY – Iowa City recently passed a significant milestone in the largest public works project in its history.
The city shut down its north wastewater treatment plant Feb. 7 and shifted all operations to its expanded south plant.
That move had long been planned as part of a $50.2 million project stemming from the 2008 flood, but this year’s harsh winter took its toll on the 79-year-old north plant and it went offline just in time, said Public Works Director Rick Fosse.
The move also clears the way for more planning for a new park along the Iowa River that includes land where the north plant had stood. The site is in the city’s Riverfront Crossings District, which city officials hope undergoes a major redevelopment in the coming years.
The north plant is north of Highway 6 at 1000 S. Clinton St. It flooded in 2008, and city officials soon after decided to expand the south plant and relocate all wastewater operations to that facility, which is out of the floodplain at 4366 Napoleon St. SE.
The south wastewater treatment plant began operations in 1990, was expanded in 2002 and uses newer technology than the older plant.
The type of treatment process used at the north plant suffered in the cold every year, Fosse said, but this winter’s bouts of extreme cold really caused problems and a key component was freezing up.
Work on the south plant is mostly done and should wrap up by the middle of the year, Fosse said.
The $50.2 cost is $4.6 million less than the estimate because there have been almost no unforeseen problems, meaning most of the contingency fund built into the budget has not been needed.
“We feel very good about that,” Fosse said.
The removal of the north plant and clean-up of the site will cost another $4.4 million to $13 million. It’s such a wide range because parts of the structure are up to 20 feet below ground and how far down demolition occurs will depend on the plans for the park, Fosse said.
The site is to become part of a new 18-acre park with wetlands and to-be-determined amenities. The city has applied for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant worth up to $60,000 in technical assistance to develop a park plan, said Karen Howard, an urban planner for Iowa City. If it doesn’t get that grant, the city could hire a consultant.
There will be opportunities for community members to weigh in on what they want for the park, Howard said.
Development of the park will occur over several years as funds become as available, according the city.
The park would be in the southwest corner of Riverfront Crossings, a 278-acre area south of downtown that city officials want to become more of an urban, walkable neighborhood with housing, office space and retail through a combination of public and private projects.
City officials believe the park, with its green space and more attractive views, will help spur further redevelopment of Riverfront Crossings.“Changing it from a sewer plant to a new riverfront park will be a significant change, and we do think it will be a catalyst,” Howard said.