Wastewater plant stays at existing site

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SANDPOINT — City Council members were tasked with a decision last week regarding the wastewater treatment plant, stemming back to one question discussed over the past year — should it stay or should it go?

Ultimately, the decision was made to leave the plant at the existing location on the Pend Oreille River shoreline by War Memorial Field.

Before the final decision was made during the Aug. 1 meeting, Sandpoint Public Works director Amanda Wilson reviewed the options and information discussed at a July 5 workshop, starting with “why” the issue needs addressed.

“Really it boils down to the fact that our last facility plan for our wastewater treatment plant was issued in 2007, so it needs to be updated,” Wilson said. “We have a new discharge permit. We also have future permits that are forthcoming. We have aging infrastructure, which is a bit of an understatement, and we have high peak flows.”

Council members were presented three options that were the result of a process that began after the city was awarded a $65,000 wastewater planning grant from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality a year ago.

The discussion of moving the plant actually dates back to 2009 when the city purchased a 32.2-acre chunk of land on Baldy Mountain Road for $905,000. The mayor and council at that time hoped the land would someday house a wastewater treatment plant capable of serving all five of the area’s sewer districts, according to Daily Bee archives.

The first option presented to council members was to install new technology at the existing site within the next five years. The second option was to bridge improvements, phasing it out over time, with new technology at the existing site. The option would give the city more time by extending the life of some of the current technology until new technology could be installed.

The third option included bridging improvements and moving the plant to the Baldy site with new technology. The latter would have required leaving some of the equipment at the existing site to allow the discharge into the Pend Oreille River.

Staff recommended the second option, which carries a price tag of $71-$83 million. Moving the site to Baldy Mountain Road would cost a minimum of $105 million.

“Basically the new site is a clean slate, so that’s the advantage there,” Wilson said. “The disadvantage at the new site that we are really seeing in these cost estimates of $105 million to $120 million, are the infrastructure improvements.”

Bridge improvements would still be required at the existing site to allow time to install new technology at the Baldy site, and crews would need to run nine miles of pipe — three pipes at three miles each — between the sites, which added approximately $30 million to the cost.

Council members agreed with staff recommendation on unanimously voted to approve option two and bridge improvements at the existing site.

The benefits to this, Wilson said, include buying the city time to reduce inflow and infiltration, pay off debt, better understand future permit limits and explore grant funding. Wilson said the city has been exploring funding opportunities through different agencies, including the USDA, the Department of Environmental Quality, Army Corps of Engineers, as well as several others.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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