New water plant expected to be on line in July

Next month, Sweet Home residents should be able to turn on their taps and get water coming from the city’s new water treatment plant.

Representatives of Siemens Water Technology of California spent last week letting some water into the plant’s filtration system and inspecting the equipment to make sure everything is working correctly.

Once it’s running, the new plant will replace a 70-year-old system that has been incapable of consistently meeting new drinking water standards imposed a decade ago. Automating the old water plant and running it 24 hours per day about two years ago resulted in meeting the drinking water standards most of the time.

The old plant cannot always meet regulatory requirements for staying in contact with chlorine before reaching the first service connection. The new plant incorporates a serpentine well beneath the floor of the building to ensure that water stays in contact with chlorine long enough.

As a result of the water quality deficiencies, the city has sent quarterly notices to Sweet Home residents for the past decade to explain that the city’s water does not meet drinking water standards.

The city built the plant in the 1930s and upgraded it in the 1960s.

The city is spending a total of around $13 million on the new plant, Public Works Director Mike Adams said. Most of those funds have been borrowed from the state and will be repaid through water rates.

The new plant is capable of producing 6 million gallons of water per day. The plant contains three independent treatment systems, each capable of producing 2 million gallons per day. It can be expanded to the east to produce 10 million gallons.

Sweet Home is using about 1.5 million gallons per day on average, Adams said.

The new plant draws its water directly from Foster Lake. The water is piped west from the dam, under Wiley Creek to the plant, which is located west of the intersection of 47th Avenue and Nandina Street, north of Highway 20.

Water is pumped uphill from the north side of the five-acre site to the plant. It runs through filters inside the plant and then into the serpentine well beneath the building. From there, pipes carry the water back inside the building and out to service connections to the east and west and to the city’s reservoirs.

The treatment equipment takes up most of the ground floor of the two-story treatment plant. The parking lot is located on the north side of the building at the same level as the second floor. From the parking lot entrance, a raised walkway runs along the north and west sides of the structure. Along the west end of the structure are several rooms, including office space, a conference room, a lab, restrooms and lockers.

This week, Siemens representatives will start running water through the plant and continuing the startup process, Adams said.

The idea, if everything stays on target, is to have the plant in service delivering water in July.

When that new water will actually begin arriving at Sweet Home spigots isn’t something Adams can pin down though. Once the plant goes online, it will be used to fill the reservoirs that serve most of the city, mixing with water from the old plant.

The reservoir system takes three days to clear, he said. “You shouldn’t notice any difference is what I would anticipate.”

The city will stop sending notices as soon as the state can certify the new system meets drinking water standards, Adams said. He hopes he will not have to send a third-quarter notice, but he doesn’t know how long it will take the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to respond.