WEBB CITY, Mo. — Carl Francis, city administrator, referenced Webb City’s wastewater and wetland project as an example of what can be accomplished with adequate government collaboration and assistance.

“I’m proud to say that this project has been a success story for government, which you don’t hear said very often,” he said. “I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of times when the government sticks their hands in something, it usually turns out bad. But this is good project, and we’ve really enjoyed it.”

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources offered a free financing workshop Thursday in Webb City to discuss ways to overcome infrastructure challenges and funding barriers. The event was intended for community leaders who are searching for funding assistance for public water or wastewater treatment system projects.

“If your community needs drinking water or wastewater infrastructure work, but you don’t know how to secure funding, these workshops will introduce you to people who can help,” Hannah Humphrey, director of the department’s Financial Assistance Center, said in a news release. “Communities that use state and federal assistance programs for infrastructure projects save money, but they also get support from department experts, which may be beneficial for communities with ongoing compliance challenges.”

Francis discussed the city’s wastewater project during the workshop to demonstrate what steps Webb City took to help reduce its zinc issues.

Webb City has been working with state and federal agencies for several years on the Cardinal Valley restoration project, which focuses on reducing the amount of heavy metals from being discharged with the city's wastewater into Center Creek. Heavy metals are commonly found throughout the region, officials say, because of the former lead and zinc mining operations.

“Now, the city of Webb City, whenever we pump water into a house from our water wells, it has zero zinc in it,” Francis said. “But the problem is, through inflow and infiltration, by the time it gets to our sewer treatment plant, it has a ton of zinc in it.”

Spanning over 275 acres, Cardinal Valley helps remove zinc from the Center Creek 201 Wastewater Treatment Plant through infrastructure improvements, composting and wetland development. The plant serves Webb City, Carterville and Oronogo.

The vegetation in the wetlands project absorbs the zinc from the water before it can reach Center Creek. Over time, the zinc buildup leaves behind sludge in the lagoons. Instead of being removed and taken to an approved landfill, the sludge can be used in composting, where it’s dried and mixed with biosolids to be reused as topsoil.

“It’s going to show benefits for years to come because Webb City, Carterville and Oronogo will not have to spend money to get rid of that sludge, as long as they keep doing it right,” Francis said.

John Sellers, the mayor of the city of Anderson, visited the workshop to learn about the funding options for water projects. Before being elected mayor in 2010, Sellers had worked in wastewater management for several decades. He said he wanted to be brought up to speed with the current financial options.

“Financing of infrastructure activities can be very complicated and as they mentioned earlier in the program, outright giveaway grant money has virtually disappeared,” he said. “Now, it’s mostly in the form of low-interest loans. There’s even a lot of competition for those.”

Gabe Lett, senior marketing specialist with Allgeier, Martin and Associates, of Joplin, was also present during the workshop because his company works with various municipalities on water and wastewater projects.

“We’re always looking at innovative and creative ways to help communities get things done,” Lett said. “Even though we’re engineering the project, understanding the funding side of it is very helpful to the municipality.”

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.