Sioux Falls Dirty Jobs

It takes a lot to keep a city the size of Sioux Falls running smoothly. Some of the jobs aren’t exactly the prettiest.  

People working at the City landfill or cleaning out Sioux Falls’ sewers usually do their jobs outside of the public eye, but that doesn’t mean their role in the city isn’t crucial.

It’s a sight many don’t want to see, but for those who work at the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill, dealing with large piles of trash is just another day at the office. 

“Most people will produce anywhere from four to five pounds of waste per day, so all that waste has to go somewhere,” Landfill Superintendent Dustin Hansen said. 

More than 500 tons of waste come in every day from five different counties, most of it household garbage. 

“Food waste, soiled papers, different materials like that all gets commingled so when it gets dumped out of the truck it’s some of a nasty sight almost,” Hansen said. 

As it piles up, there’s a need to compact the trash. That’s where this machine comes in. It’s a compactor, which plays a crucial role in keeping the waste from taking up too much space. 

“That compresses that garbage down so we get the most amount of tons per square foot or per square yard that we can. That’s very important. It keeps our rates down and it also makes the landfill work better to some extent,” Utility Operations Administrator Trent Lubbers said. 

We grabbed the controls of one of the compactors, which is a million-dollar machine.  At first, it seems like it’s going well. 

“Hey, you’re a pro. I better watch out for my job.”

After a while though, it didn’t go as smooth.

While workers tackle the never-ending piles of waste from the area, crews also work on maintaining the old landfill. These pumps remove a black liquid or leachate and gas from the waste buried underneath the ground. Later, they treat the leachate in the sanitary sewer system. The gas is dried, compressed and sent to the ethanol plant to burn for energy. It take more than 120 pumps to do the job.  Workers take those pumps out of the ground and flush out the pipes. 

“They are dirty and nasty jobs and somebody has to do them and we have great City employees that take care of this for our 260,000 people in our region,” Hansen said. 

Dirty jobs happen inside the city as well, including keeping the sewer pipes that run below our feet flowing smoothly. 

“Out of sight, out of mind that a sewer pipes are under the ground so people don’t really think about it,” Sewer Collection Technician Lester Bartels said. 

Crews use a jet nozzle to flush out any clogged pipes so you don’t get backups in your home. 

“What comes to mind is the old Drano commercials where it’s the glass pipe and you see the hairball and all the gunk in the pipe and they pour the stuff in and flushes.  That’s what it looks like,” Bartels said. 

Workers like Bartels will flush out about 15 manholes a day, which covers about 5,000 to 6,000 feet of pipe. Lubbers says the city takes more proactive measures with its infrastructure than in the past, and it’s paid off.   

“Before we did that we had a lot more backups. We had backups in the 50, 60, 70 backups a year throughout the city. Now, the city has doubled in size and we have less than 10 sewer backups in the city,” Lubbers said. 

It’s a collection of jobs that don’t normally get much notice from the general public, but Lubbers says that might be a good thing. 

“The fact that they don’t get a pat on the back, I think they should, but they probably wouldn’t appreciate that. They don’t necessarily want to be in the public’s eye. But as far as being a dedicated team and a team that is 100 percent dedicated to our customers every day, there’s not a better team out there,” Lubbers said. 

Workers who might be going home dirty every day, but they do their best to keep our city clean. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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