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Encyclopedia Dubuque



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CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT (MOST EXPENSIVE). On October 12, 2010, Dubuque's most expensive capital improvement project began. The program involved converting the city's 40-year-old waste water pollution control plant from an incineration process to anaerobic digestion. The $64 million facility was fully operational by the end of 2013. (1) While the option had the highest initial capital cost, it represented the lowest annual operating and maintenance costs. It was also considered to be the most sustainable option when considering the long-term benefits and environmental impact.

The first treatment of Dubuque's waste water was in 1956--130 years after it became a city. Until then all waste water went directly into the MISSISSIPPI RIVER.

After the plant became functional, there was to be no waste product. Usable material would be generated that could be used for composting or as a soil amendment. Eventually the plant was expected to generate 800 kilowatts of energy--enough operate the plant.

The treatment facility's distinction of being the city's largest capital project was lost to the BEE BRANCH improvements. (2) In 2015, two years after completing the treatment center, City officials were considering nearly $12 million in further improvements. This would be a 15-year plan of staggered upgrades to comply with new limits on the removal of nutrients commonly found in runoff from wastewater-treatment plants and farms. (3)


1. Barton, Thomas J. "Dubuque Eyes $12 Million Project," Telegraph Herald, September 8, 2015, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.