The Ravalli County Commissioners last week approved allocation of up to $1.077 million to be used as matching funds in a grant application by the Corvallis Sewer District under the American Rescue Plan Act for a $3.162 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade and improvement project.
The Corvallis Sewer District currently serves over 500 active residential sewer connections in the Corvallis area, plus the Corvallis School District facilities and approximately 60 commercial hookups including office, retail, food service and other businesses.
The wastewater treatment plant which discharges into groundwater began services in the late 1970s and early 1980s, serving the original Corvallis townsite. In the 1990s growth in the area led to additions and annexations with new subdivisions being added to the south and east. The last time the treatment facility was expanded was in 2001 when a third lagoon cell and additional treatment components were added.
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Corvallis Sewer District, board member Erik Hoover, who is employed by the county as manager of Emergency Services, told the commissioners that his board began looking at options to improve the system last year for a couple of reasons. One was a significant increase in levels of solid waste coming into the system such as wipes, rags, Q-tips and other items that cannot be processed through the existing system. The problem eventually led to the shutdown of two lagoon cells to clean out the garbage. A third lagoon cell was added in a nearby building to keep the system running while the two other lagoons were being drained and vacuumed. He said the new arrangement was awkward and created a lot of noise in the neighborhood.
Another issue, according to Hoover, is periodic permit violations in which the effluent exceeds the allowable levels of e-coli. Hoover said that the problem was related to the existing chlorine treatment system in use at the plant. He said that the District conducted a competitive solicitation and chose Morrison-Maierle to help develop a Preliminary Engineering Report for making the necessary upgrades to address the issues.
Aaron McConkey, a Morrison-Maierle engineer, said his company took a 20-year look at the system and identified deficiencies that needed to be addressed. He said a lot were due simply to age since the plant was constructed in 1979. He said the permit violations they were experiencing were not regular or seasonal in nature and were mostly related to the chlorine treatment inconsistencies.
Two public meetings were held in the process, according to McConkey, the first to explore deficiencies and the second to explore alternatives. The outcome, he said, was a preferred option that includes replacing the chlorine treatment system with a new ultra-violet disinfection system, to add new head works screening, some new pipe re-configurations and upgrades to aeration system in the lagoons. The plan also involves consolidating all the blowers into one room and converting to quieter motors.
The cost of the project to address all these near-term issues is estimated at $3.162 million.
Traditionally, the legislature allocates funding for water and sewer projects every two years. Currently, $625,000 in grants is available but it would leave the district having to raise the rest through a state loan program.
Hoover told the commissioners that the opportunity has now come up to get funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The plan involves seeking a $1.58 million ARPA grant, that would be matched by $1.077 million from the county’s Secure Rural Schools funding, two planning grants for $30,000, and $474,000 from the Corvallis Sewer District cash and reserve funds.
Hoover said he was optimistic about the grant application. He said the district applied for the grant during the last application but was not accepted. Their application ranked 103 out of 350 with only 70 being funded.
“If we had this match at that time, we would have made the funding limits,” said Hoover.
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the grant application.