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Wastewater testing

Wastewater discharge from the Sanford Underground Research Facility is tested. The lab was recently honored for a 10th straight year by the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the quality of its treated water.

For the 10th consecutive year, Sanford Lab’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was recognized for its “outstanding operation of the wastewater system and environmental compliance.” The award was presented in April by the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at the 2018 South Dakota Water and Wastewater Association Wastewater Operators Seminar.

“This is a testament to the commitment and leadership of the team,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. “I’m proud of their work and pleased that it has once again been recognized in South Dakota.”

Since 2008, billions of gallons have been treated at Sanford Lab’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). More than half of that water is pumped from underground while the rest is added from the Grizzly Gulch tailings. Once treated, the water is released into Gold Run Creek, which joins Whitewood Creek within a few hundred yards of the discharge pipe. Sanford Lab regularly monitors the health of the creeks, counting fish and macro invertebrate populations, and tests for contaminants.

“Since we began testing in 2008, we’ve seen very little impact from the Lab’s discharge,” said John Scheetz, environmental manager at Sanford Lab. “Biological indicators continue to show these are very healthy streams. The trout, insects and algae all seem to be very much the same up and down the streams.”

Ken Noren, foreman of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, attributes the award to the commitment and professionalism of his team, saying they go above and beyond the requirements.

“There are over 400 wastewater treatment facilities across the state of South Dakota that aim to achieve this type of recognition,” Noren said. “So, for us to be acknowledged 10 years in a row, to me, demonstrates our commitment to obey the requirements set for us to help protect our natural resources and to be good neighbors.”

Qualifications for the award are based on a system’s compliance with state environmental requirements, the quality of the treated and discharged water, monitoring reports, state inspections, and proper operation and maintenance of the facility.

“Wastewater treatment is vitally important to our quality of life because it removes harmful pollutants that can spread disease and provides safe water for use by all those downstream,” said DENR secretary Steve Pirner. “The winners of DENR’s Surface Water Discharge Permit Awards are to be thanked because they collect, treat and maintain their wastewater treatment systems at the highest levels.”

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