No wasting on Wastewater Treatment Facility

After two years of construction, not counting the sweat and effort put into financing, the City of Kettle Falls is ready to unveil its new wastewater treatment facility to the public. The city will hold an Open House at the facility located at 768 Old Kettle Road, Wednesday July 24 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tours will be given as visitors get an inside look into how wastewater is treated so it can be released back into the environment. Getting to this point though meant a juggling act for the city, as staff had to figure out how to fund a project that would cost millions of dollars without putting excess financial strain on the 1,640 resi¬dents and businesses within the city that are hooked up to the sewer system. “Despite the need (for the facility), we didn’t want that kind of impact on people,” says Kettle Falls Mayor Dorothy Slagle. “We also didn’t want to set the city up in a position where we would have to default on our loan.” According to Kettle Falls City Planner David Keeley, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) had issued a warning to the city several years ago to deal with the city’s wastewater lagoons, which were leaking untreated sewage into the groundwater. Constructed in the 1960’s with little more than a backhoe, the lagoons were receiving more than their allotted 120,000 gallons per day. The stench from the lagoons and the concern of leaking raw sewage drove home the point that the city’s system at the time was unsustainable, as well as potentially hazardous to the environment. Increase in sewage rates “We wanted to fix that for our community, but we had to figure out how to do that without being too cost prohibitive,” says Keeley. “If we had to pay back a loan on something we wanted it to be a facility that would last 40 to 100 years with the proper maintenance.” Working with the DOE, the Washington State Department of Commerce and the Washington State Public Works Board, the city was able to obtain grant money and a loan. Combined with the city’s contribution of $125,000, total funding equaled $11,874,071. According to Keeley, the city was able to come in at $520,000 under budget for the project. The interest rate for the loan from the DOE is 1.9 percent. The end result is a facility that sits on roughly five acres off the road, bordered by trees. The treatment plant is modeled on possible population growth for Kettle Falls over the next 20 years and can handle 240,000 gallons of sewage per day. IMCO General Construction, E&H Engineering, and Esvelt Engineering contributed to the design and construction of the facility, which also boasts environmentally friendly features such as pumping treated wastewater discharge through pipes that heat the Laboratory Operations Building. “We wanted to find as many ways to save money on this as we could, without compromising quality” states Slagle. Due to the loan, some of the cost was passed on to consumers within the city limits. Kettle Falls sewer rates in Oct. 2011 were $59 for a residential and $79.65 for a business per month. In October 2012, two months before the facility’s completion, sewer rates rose to $67 for residential and $90.45 for a business. “People have been really patient with us, and understanding,” says Slagle. “We appreciate that. We are a small community and we didn’t want to have to raise rates any more than we needed to.” Construction on a new city shop, to be built next to the wastewater treatment plant, will begin this summer. Until then, Slagle says she encourages the public will come to the fa¬cility’s open house, or call city hall to schedule a tour of the new plant at 738-6821. Who paid for it?Dept. of Ecology Funding:Centennial Grant-$1,000,973State Revolving Loan-$5,249,071Forgivable Principal Grant-$3,999,027Community Development Block Grant-$1,500,000City of Kettle Falls funds-$125,000