Two business owners spoke out Tuesday against the recent management of Rapid City Regional Airport's wastewater system.
The septic lagoon that serves the airport's terminal and commercial tenants is too small and too outdated to be of further use, according to the owner of a nearby parking and storage lot. Just last week, the airport vacuumed up about 74,000 gallons of wastewater from the lagoon and spread it across the northern end of its property in an effort to prevent an overflow.
“I don’t know what we’re waiting on,” Brooke Stromer said to the airport's board of directors on Tuesday.
Stromer, who owns Stromer Storage and Parking at 14930 Aviation Road, was joined in his criticism by Westjet Air Center co-owner Linda Rydstrom. During the public comment portion of Tuesday's board meeting, the two also admonished airport leadership for allowing wastewater to be dumped on-site last week without permission from state regulators.
“I think this is a huge black eye on the community,” Rydstrom said.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources requires that entities obtain a permit in order to "land apply" their wastewater. Water sampling tests and other assessments need to be conducted for a permit to be issued, and wastewater can only be discharged on flat areas where the chance of human exposure is low.
Airport officials have said that they were under the impression that a permit was not needed based on their preliminary conversations with the DENR. The airport began looking to off-load the contents of the lagoon after it was overwhelmed by stormwater and car wash runoff, according to Executive Director Patrick Dame.
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It was believed that an overflow could be more quickly prevented by disposing of the waste on-site, officials have said. At the DENR's request, the airport announced Monday it would stop spreading the wastewater and haul it off-site instead. Dame said Tuesday that the airport is pursuing a permit that would allow it to continue the practice on an as-needed basis.
Speaking to board members on Tuesday, Dame agreed that the lagoon poses a problem and said the DENR and airport are working together to find a solution. He also said the DENR determined in a visit Monday that the areas where sewage has been dumped would be eligible for future land applications.
Potential alternatives to the lagoon range from replacing it with a newer, larger pond to constructing on-site water treatment facilities, according to a copy of a 2017 airport study. Dame said later that all options are on the table but none can be pursued until an ongoing environmental assessment of the lagoon is completed.
Another alternative would be to build a regional sewage collection system that links to Rapid City's sewer lines and future developers could tap into. Dame said that airport engineers estimate this option would cost approximately $20 million.
The airport could also build its own sewer line for far less that extends directly from its property to the city Water Reclamation Facility approximately five miles away. The line would cost slightly less than $2 million to construct, Dame said.
Dame said the airport could also construct a more efficient lagoon for around $900,000 that would be treated with ammonia.
Board member Michelle Thomson asked Dame during Tuesday's meeting whether anything could be done about the lagoon in the short term. Dame responded by saying that removing silt from the pond could reduce water levels somewhat.