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History of the Waste Water Facility

Before 1898, Fargo’s sewer collection piping was a combined system for both storm water and sewage. It was constructed along 9th Avenue North and discharged directly into the Red River. Other collectors were added in 1904 on 1st Ave North, 1919 on the south side, and in 1923 and 1925 on 14th and 15th Avenues North. 

The basis for the original design is unknown, but an engineering report for the period of 1910 to 1912 reveals this information: “It is evident at once that no preconceived plan or design has been followed in the construction of the system, for some sizes are too large and some too small and many with improper grade—a sewer system cannot be designed without a study being made of the probable class of buildings, the number of people who will eventually live in the district, whether it will be business or residence districts, streets paved or unpaved and the amount of rainfall during short periods of time. There are no records that such studies have been made and data compiled,” said Frank L. Anders. 

As the city continued to grow, so did health concerns because of odors and the concentration of sewage in the river when its levels were low. 

In 1932, a committee was formed to investigate building a sewage plant after complaints from the Veteran’s Administration and the American Legion concerning the terrible river conditions on the north side of Fargo due to sewage pollution of the Red River.

1932: The city authorized a $400,000 bond to fund construction. Voters disapproved the bond issue by a vote of 6,216 against and 5,026 in favor of the measure.

1933: The Issak Walton League sent a letter concerning sewage problems in the river and asked the city to stop the practice. The city signed a contract with Buell & Winter Engineering Co. of Sioux City, Iowa for $1,275 to conduct a survey for plant location and the collection system. The survey report was presented to city with seven sites selected for the plant. An area was selected southeast of El Zagal Park, east of Holes Addition and Elm Street. An action was started in District Court by Marvin H. Jones compelling the city to stop practice of dumping sewage into the Red River. The North Dakota State Health Department sent a letter to the city concerning sewage being dumped into the river. A meeting was held with taxpayers to discuss the necessity for construction of a sewage plant. The contract was awarded to Buell & Winter for plans and a cost estimate of sewage plant. A declaration of necessity for sewage disposal plant was made. A notice of 30 days was given for protest, and no protest was received. Mr. Jones filed a lawsuit which resulted in an injunction directing the city to stop dumping sewage into the Red River. The city was given 18 months to resolve the problem. The city filed for a loan of $385,000 and a grant of $127,000, through the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. A loan for $524,000 was approved. North Fargo residents filed a petition against the location of the sewage plant. 

1934: A petition was filed Feb. 26, 1934 requesting an ordinance prohibiting the building of a sewage disposal plant within the city limits. An option was given from Emil Utke of 15 acres one and one-fourth miles north of 19th Ave (city limits) for $250/acre. The city accepted that tract of land. The public works administrator approved a loan of $598,000 and a grant of $224,000. The total for the project was $812,000.

1936: The sewage plant began operation January 1, 1936.  Four lift stations located along the Red River received sewage and storm water from the combined collector system and pumped the wastewater to the head works lift station at the plant.  The plant facility consists of:

  • administration building.
  • lab.
  • mechanical bar screen.
  • one detriter (grit removal unit).
  • two gas boilers and burners.
  • two sludge pumps.
  • building containing two clarifiers.
  • two dosing chambers.
  • one rock trickling filter with fixed nozzles.
  • one solid cover primary sludge digester with stirring mechanisms and heating coil.
  • one secondary digester with a floating cover for gas storage.
  • 30,000 square feet of biosolids drying beds.

1939: Four biosolids drying beds were added to handle emergency cleaning of digester and additional storage of 13,300 sq. ft.

1958: A facility study recommended upgrading the plant to a treatment capacity of 9 million gallons per day to serve a population of 70,000 and to add a secondary treatment.

1961: A new influent sewage pumping station with two automatic mechanical bar screens, three pumps and effluent re-circulation line was installed. The old station served as a standby unit.  Grit chamber/aeration basin with grit conveyer and aeration blowers, two additional primary clarifiers, two sludge pumps, one scum pump, one 150-foot rotating distributor trickling filter, and one 110-foot final settling clarifier were all added.

1962: Two new primary digesters were added, each having three mechanical mixers. One control room, three digester heat exchangers and three pumps to circulate solids were added. Old digesters will receive supernate biosolids from the new digester. The city also added additional biosolid drying beds.

1970:  The U.S. Dept of the Interior cited the city for being in violation of discharge limits. A study recommended using waste stabilization ponds for additional effluent treatment.  A chlorinator for effluent disinfection was installed.

1972: A new effluent pumping station was installed with four pumps to transfer 10 million gallons per day of effluent from the final clarifier to six new waste stabilization ponds with a volume of 261 million gallons each. This capacity will allow enough detention time for tertiary treatment of wastewater and storage of effluent for five months when the river is frozen.

1979: A facility plan study was done to update old parts of the plant.

1982:  Old bar screens were replaced with new ones. The plant added a fourth influent pump, one 50-foot clarifier and aluminum covers over all the clarifiers. The city demolished the old building on original primary clarifiers, and the dosing chamber and old stationary trickling filter building and replaced them with two 125’ diameter synthetic media trickling filters with rotating distributors. Two additional digester storage tanks were added, one with a floating cover, and one with a solid cover.  70,000 square feet of biosolids drying beds were added. Additional lab facilities were also added, and office space was upgraded.

1989: A facility study showed the need for an additional lagoon.  The state was not in favor of this idea, so the plant design was upgraded to a capacity of 15 million gallons per day with direct discharge to the river.

1990-95: The citydemolished the old grit chamber and aeration channel, and installed a new vortex grit removal system, a pre-aeration channel with four blowers, an odor control unit, two additional primary clarifiers with covers, a modified Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) trickling filter, and replaced rock with synthetic stacked media. One new filter lift station was added with four BOD pumps and four nitrification pumps, converted the final clarifier to an intermediate clarifier and added an additional intermediate clarifier. Two new nitrification trickling filters with rotating distributors and stacked synthetic media were installed, one 150’ final clarifier, a chlorine mixing chamber and detention channel with dechlorination treatment prior to discharge to river were all added. One chlorine/sulfur dioxide tank storage and control building with an emergency chlorine scrubber was installed. Two standby emergency generators were added.

1997: Additional biosolids beds added to the facility.