It is a $10 million challenge for Clatskanie City Manager Greg Hinkelman and the city council.
The City of Clatskanie's wastewater treatment plant needs to be replaced, according to the results of a formal facility master plan of the plant conducted by the Lake Oswego-based engineering firm Curran-McLeod Inc.
"According to the master plan, a new plant will cost approximately $10 million," Hinkelman said. "So I am shaking the trees to find the money needed."
Hinkelman said the city is eligible for community block grants, which could provide $2.5 million and he is also reviewing financial infrastructure lending institutions for additional funds.
"I also will have conversations with state and congressional representatives to see what grant funds Clatskanie could qualify for," Hinkelman said. "I want to have this paid for through grants. I don’t what to take on any debt. We have no debt now and I want to keep it that way."
But if funding cannot be developed through grant options, Hinkelman said ratepayers may see service cost increases.
"Rate increases will come into play if we have to get institutional financing for the new plant," he said.
The sewer plant master plan development was funded through a $20,000 Business Oregon grant and $5,000 from the City of Clatskanie. The plan is currently under review by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Hinkelman said that review and approval could take four to five months to complete.
In the meantime, Hinkelman said he doesn't expect any service disruptions at the sewer plant, built in 1976.
"The biggest reason we need to replace the plant is age," he said. "It is operating beyond design specifications and we have limited redundancy at that plant. If there is a failure we have to go into a major scramble to get it fix."
Hinkelman said recent mechanical failures prompted the master plan study.
Those failures included discharges on July 31 into the Clatskanie River after a rag slipped past the filtering system and lodged under a seal preventing the plant's clarifier to allow proper treatment of the water.
"No raw sewage was discharged, only treated water that had Ecoli readings that were out of DEQ permit requirements," Hinkelman said following the event.
In September 2019 a sweep arm failed at the wastewater treatment plant and partially treated sewage was being intermittently discharged into the adjacent Clatskanie River.
In both cases, the city posted health alert signs along the adjacent riverfront to warn the public of the contamination.
Follow this developing story here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.