City borrowing $5 million for I&I reduction project

The Sweet Home City Council on Dec. 8 authorized staff to borrow $5 million in the form of a no-interest loan from Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund to pay for its fourth phase of inflow and infiltration reduction in the sewer system.

In addition, the city has been awarded a $1.5 million Community Development Block Grant from the state to help pay for the project, which aims to reduce the amount of pollution that leaks into the South Santiam River.

“That’s been the net results of our efforts to get stimulus money from the state,” said City Manager Craig Martin. Previous loans were low interest.

So far, the city has spent $7.88 million in three I&I reduction projects since 2002, Martin said. The city still has $2 million in loans available from the third phase.

The city has been operating under a rough estimate of $30 million to nearly eliminate I&I from its sewer system.

The estimate is roughly $22 million at this point, said Public Works Director Mike Adams.

The city estimates the impact on rates at $1 per month per $1 million borrowed.

Inflow and infiltration is water that leaks into the sewer system through deteriorated and cracked pipes and through cross connections of storm drains to sewer lines. During heavy rains, I&I can overload the city’s wastewater treatment plant. When the plant is overloaded, untreated wastewater is bypassed into the South Santiam River, which can result in fines against the city.

The city is operating under an agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality, which oversees the loan program, to eliminate the overflows by 2010.

During the summer, the entire city treats less than 1 million gallons of wastewater per day. The treatment plant can handle roughly 7.5 million gallons per day. During heavy rains, the plant has received more than 12 million gallons per day, its peak instantaneous capacity.

The city will continue flow monitoring, Martin said. It will tell the city how the projects are affecting I&I.

“We’re still looking for the mother lode of I&I,” Martin said. If the city can find it, the cost would be cut significantly.

“But it appears there is no mother lode,” he said. “What it is, is a bunch of leaky pipes.”

A large amount of those leaky pipes are private laterals on the residential side, Martin said. The city has been able to replace some of those lines as part of its I&I reduction projects.

The city is estimating phase four will reduce 2.8 million gallons per day of I&I from the system, Adams said. That will not be enough to meet agreement requirements by next year.

That means plant improvements likely will become a requirement in the near future, Adams said, and the city will need to update its 2002 wastewater plan.

This project will include repair and reconstruction of sewer lines, flow monitoring during the wet season and fan update of the hydrologic and hydraulic models the city is using.

The project will go before the council before the city begins working.

Present at the meeting and approving the resolution to authorize city staff to borrow the money were Mayor Craig Fentiman and councilors Jim Bean, Jim Gourley, Greg Mahler and Eric Markell. Laure Fowler and Scott McKee Jr. were absent.

In other business, they reappointed Lance Gatchell to the Planning Commission. Henry Berg also had applied for the position.

The council appointed Phoebe Olson to the junior high at-large position on the Youth Advisory Council. One position, Sweet Home Junior High eighth grade, remains open. Call 367-8969 for information or stop by City Hall at 1140 12th Ave.