WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Waiting Game for SE Iowa Sewer Projects

Jul 15, 2013

A regional agency that helps rural southeast Iowa communities build and maintain sewer systems is waiting for the go-ahead from the state to do some work in Lee County.

The Iowa DNR has yet to weigh in on a sewer system upgrade in the unincorporated community of Argyle in Lee County.

Mount Pleasant-based Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS) helped the unincorporated community of Argyle build its sanitary sewer system about four years ago.

Executive Director Bruce Hudson says the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has yet to sign off on a significant upgrade to the system.

He says he noticed an issue with one of the filters about 18-months ago, prompting a full review of the system.

"We hired an engineering firm that did a review of the system," says Hudson, "and it appears that system was undersized dramatically compared to what it should have been."

Hudson says the project can go out for bid once the DNR signs off on the project.

There is a big question that is still up in the air: who will pay for the work.

RUSS's oversight board has hired an attorney to look into the Argyle project.

Hudson did not get into specifics after the vote, but he expects meetings in the coming weeks to determine who should be responsible for the upgrades.


A court could decide whether RUSS can deal directly with delinquent accounts in Mount Union.

The agency adopted a policy, in June, that allows it to install shut-off valves when sewer bills become 60-days delinquent or more.

The policy was approved about six months after the agency sued Mount Union because some residents of the unincorporated Henry County community are not paying their bills.

A hearing on the request for a permanent injunction will be held in Henry County District Court.

Executive Director Bruce Hudson says security concerns have led his agency to not go into the community and install the shut-off valves.

"Right now, I can't get any department to insure that," says Hudson.  "The (Henry County) Sheriff's Department (doesn't) have the manpower to insure that so right now we are waiting on the court system."

Hudson says about a dozen property owners in Mount Union are not paying their bills.

He says no shut-off valves have been installed throughout RUSS’s ten county area.


The future of a proposed sewer project in rural Lee County remains in question.

The county is working with RUSS to develop a system in the Powdertown/Mooar area.

Executive Director Bruce Hudson says RUSS still needs information from the Iowa DNR before a preliminary engineering report can be completed.

"The wasteload allocation depicts what size and what kind of system you can use," says Hudson, "so that is going to tell us what we can and cannot use at that point."

The Lee County Board of Supervisors will present the report to the landowners in Powdertown/Mooar so they can decide whether they want the project to proceed.


RUSS is still working out the management details for a system in rural Van Buren County.

The agency helped Mount Sterling build and maintain its system, for which the city was responsible.

Mount Sterling has since discontinued its government, so a different governmental body is needed to assume responsbility.

Executive Director Bruce Hudson says RUSS is still working on an agreement with the county to do just that.