System Upgrades: What’s Old is New Again
In this, our 90th year, Four Rivers Sanitation Authority is in the midst of extensive system upgrades to help us preserve our environment and waterways and to protect our community. We are laser-focused on new EPA-mandates and how Four Rivers Sanitation Authority will transition over the next eight years to meet their stringent requirements. The EPA’s goal is for us to even further reduce our outflow nutrient and phosphorus levels beyond their current remarkably low levels.
Four Rivers Sanitation Authority isn’t alone in this endeavor. All sanitary facilities in Illinois are required to make these reductions by January 1, 2030, which means time is short. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa have already made these adjustments and, after long discussion and agreement, Illinois is taking action.
This action doesn’t come cheap. Four Rivers Sanitation Authority must invest over $200 million dollars to transition our facility to meet the EPA goals. Improvements to our facility design and processes will enhance our ability to meet our customers’ needs for the next 100 years and we are striving to achieve these goals in the most cost-effective way possible.
Comparing our rates to other like-size facilities in our region, we are sitting in the middle of the pack for a single family home. The overall quarterly median price is $117 per quarter, and Rivers Sanitation Authority’s median is below that number at $114.
We serve over 240,000 customers in a 100-square mile radius with over 1,142 miles of pipe in Winnebago County alone, extending as far north as South Beloit, east to Boone County, south to Ogle County and as far west as the Village of Winnebago. We utilize 36 lift stations throughout our system, and we operate a 90-acre campus on Rockford’s south side, processing 40 million gallons of wastewater per day and producing over 9,000 tons of fertilizer twice per year that is used on local farm fields growing cattle feed.
With the methane gas our operations produce, we meet 71% of our own energy needs, saving our customers $1 million annually!
At the end of the day, the water we return to the Rock River is cleaner than the water it joins. Our lab monitors our results by evaluating over 60,000 samples per year, so our citizens can rest easy knowing that Four Rivers Sanitation Authority is taking care of their needs and those of our shared environment.
The EPA Permit also stipulates that we create a Nutrient Discharge Elimination Assessment Reduction Plan (NARP). To this end, we created a regional watershed group. The group consists of 13 sanitary service authorities along the Kishwaukee River and the Rock River, giving us over 160 miles of water to sample in 17 different locations from the Stateline south to Rock Falls. This group is one of the largest NARPs in the state and will be monitored by the EPA and other environmental groups. This watershed group will closely monitor our river water.
In 2022, Four Rivers Sanitation Authority opened its first bid on the first project to get us to our new EPA levels by 2030. Our $20 million Primary Filtration facility has already begun construction, the first of two such facilities to be built. The second is scheduled for construction in 2024. These facilities will begin the process of phosphorus reduction, along with increased biogas production and decreased energy consumption, replacing 90-year-old primary clarifiers that have served us well but are now failing. It is incredible to thin this equipment has served us so well running 24/7/365 for the past 90 years!
Speaking of technological improvements, in 2010, Four Rivers Sanitation Authority partnered with local company Aqua-Aerobics to process Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS) at the Four Rivers Sanitation Authority facility. AGS is the next generation of activating sludge, which increases overall facility capacity while decreasing energy use. Our community can be very proud the of the fact that Aqua-Aerobics and Four Rivers Sanitation Authority are utilizing this cutting-edge technology in Winnebago County. Wastewater professionals from around the globe frequently visit us to see the ground-breaking AGS system first-hand.
It is truly amazing that the core of our 90 year-old system is still functioning, but not surprising that it is time to upgrade. Many updates will take place over the next eight years that will not only be transformational for our community but will reduce costs for our customers in the long run. Our affordable rates will continue to be competitive, but they will increase modestly in order to maintain the service levels that our customers expect and deserve and to meet the EPA’s new standards.
Our community deserves the very best and that is exactly what men and women of Four Rivers Sanitation Authority have delivered for the past 90 years. The Four Rivers employees who serve our community live in our community. So, on behalf of the 117 employees of Four Rivers Sanitation Authority, we thank you for your support. We look forward to faithfully serving our community for many, many years to come!
Four Rivers Sanitation Authority: Through the Eyes of a Child
In 2020 and 2021, Rock River Reclamation District undertook a research-driven strategic re-branding process to become Four Rivers Sanitation Authority. Research showed our old name and logo (and our then-antiquated website) contributed to a lack of understanding among citizens about the critical nature of what we do and why it is so important to life in the vast region we serve, a region consisting four treasured watersheds: the Rock, Pecatonica, Kishwaukee and Sugar. In this video, we invite you to rediscover Four Rivers Sanitation Authority through the eyes of a child … several children, in fact, in their mission to learn more. Along the way, you’ll meet and understand the importance of trillions of microorganisms called “bugs,” whose critical, ancient role in the sanitation process is at the core of what we do. Let’s go!