McGregor will pay part of the bill for the new water system

MCGREGOR, Iowa (KCRG) – Like many small towns in Iowa, McGregor is facing issues with its aging water system.

But the stakes for this town of less than 750 inhabitants are high. Under orders from MNR, McGregor’s entire water and sewage system is to be replaced. It is expected to cost the city nearly $11.5 million.

The historic downtown suffers when water levels rise, something the nonprofit art gallery Left Bank knows all too well. President Anne Kruse said at one point that her basement was filled with three feet of sewage.

“If there’s a backup that’s going to happen, our building is one of the first to be hit, and so on when you have heavy rain or just an overwhelming amount for the system, it will back up into our sub- soil and it will become a health issue,” Kruse said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has put forward about $4 million for the project. The water supply system is mostly under Main Street, which is Commercial Route 76. McGregor also received a $500,000 grant from the Wastewater and Drinking Water Treatment Financial Assistance Program , which was part of the first legislation signed into law by Governor Reynolds in 2018.

That leaves nearly $7 million to be paid by the citizens of McGregor. The plan so far is to increase citizens’ utility rates.

The town was one of 16 small communities that received grants. One of the criteria was that the area should be considered deprived, which according to the grant guidelines means that at least 51% of the population earns a low to moderate income.

The average annual income in McGregor is only 70% that of the rest of the Iowa average, which means people like Carolyn Scott will feel the pinch.

“We’re on a fixed income because we’re retired, but I think that’s part of it,” Scott said. “If I want good public services, I want a good sewage system, we have to do that.”

Mayor Lyle Troester says it would have happened eventually because the pipes are over a century old.

“In our case, it was too far to just fix it here and there, so we have to do the whole system,” Troester said.

Legal documents obtained by TV-9 show that the DNR received an anonymous complaint in 2018 that a lift station, which helps bring water upstream, was discharging raw sewage directly into the Mississippi River. After investigation, MNR discovered that another lift station was also discharging sewage. McGregor received a violation later in 2018 for failing to properly report that they had to resort to dumping untreated sewage into the river due to excessive rainfall overwhelming their waste management system.

After reviewing the matter, the DNR agreed that the spill was unavoidable. However, it was still a violation of Iowa code, and DNR and McGregor officials reached a consent agreement that their entire system should be replaced as a result.

Davy Engineering of La Crosse, Wisconsin has been selected as the company to undertake the project. Bids were finalized at the end of January and construction of the first half of the business is expected to begin in May.

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