Council lifts development restrictions after conversation about sewage

By Sean C. Morgan

The Lebanon City Council lifted a restriction this week on new development in the south and west parts of the city.

Based on a lack of sewer capacity, earlier this summer, the city stopped issuing permits for new construction. The area under the moratorium included most of the western and southern portions of Lebanon.

In August, two people approached council to discuss how the sewer issue was impacting them and projects they were doing, said acting City Manager and Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlach during the council’s regular meeting on Sept. 10. “We’ve looked at it a little deeper. Right now, we are not allowing any connection to the existing Westside Interceptor.”

Whitlach and Maintenance Operations Director Jason Williams dug into it with sewer and engineering staff and digested a draft report by David Evans and Associates.

That report shows that the capacity issues are caused by inflow and infiltration (I&I). Infiltration is ground water entering the system through leaking pipes and manholes, and inflow is storm drainage connected to the wastewater system.

“We have plenty of dry weather capacity, i.e. sewer capacity,” Whitlach said. “The pipes were designed to handle what’s out there, even the vacant land.”

Since then, the city has applied for a $14 million low-interest loan from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, with about a half million dollars in forgivable principal, he said. The city has about $3 million in revenue from systems development charges.

The funds will be used to extend the Westside Interceptor to help take the burden off the existing line when I&I levels are high.

The total cost for two phases is estimated at $19 million, Whitlach said. The first phase will cost about $9 million and extend a line from Oak Street to Walker Road. Design for the first phase, by Udell Engineering is 75 percent complete.

The city should hear whether it will receive the DEQ loan by December, he said, and Whitlach would like to begin construction by next summer, he said. The second phase is about three years out.

“Jason and I are working on different I&I projects,” Whitlach said. The city is using cameras to inspect the system. They have a staff member working on manhole rehabilitation.

“We’re going to start smoking down in that area,” he said. “We have a suspicion that there’s a lot of roof drains tied to our sewer system, just if you look at the way the model shows the spikes in it during the rain events. We know we’ve got groundwater. We’ve got cracks in the pipes and that type of stuff, but what we’re really looking into is what is the low-hanging fruit we can go out and get right now and make a big difference in this.”

The city also has funds set aside this year for a master plan for wastewater treatment, he said. With a lawsuit filed Sept. 3 against CH2M and OMI filed, the city will hold off on the plan, which frees funding up for some I&I reduction projects.

Whitlach and Williams came up with a couple of proposals, noting that most larger developments will take a year to a year and a half until the connections to the sewer are made.

“We can handle those connections,” Whitlach said.

The first option is to continue status quo and not allow any connections, he said. To get to a “perfect” position would take years to get to where this will never be an issue again.

The second option is to allow new connections to the existing sewer system and “move into the I&I repair,” he said.

“There remains a risk of sewer overflow during significant or prolonged rain events, Whitlach said. “However, the increased flow associated with new sewer connections would be minimal as the main issue is with I&I.”

The DEQ may issue a warning or a fine for overflows from manholes during “less-than-five-year” rain events, Whitlach said. “You could potentially have that now, and additional connections aren’t probably going to make that much difference.”

The last known overflow was in 2008, he said. “We’ve been actively pursuing I&I, and now we’re really engaged in it down there. That’s the only thing that’s going to fix that.”

“I guess I don’t see a lot of potential for a lot of new connections,” said Council President Jason Bolen.

“You could have a single-family residential house in six months,” Whitlach said. “You could have an apartment complex in a year and a half. By that time, we’re in full swing in getting down there.

“If we had a big bottling company come in, I’d probably say we have to revisit this and say, no, we can’t do that.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the second option and allow new connections.

Present at the meeting were Wayne Rieskamp, Rebecca Grizzle, Michelle Steinhhebel, Mayor Paul Aziz, Bolen, Karin Stauder and Robert Furlow.

In other business, the council:

♦ Appointed Joshua Galka to the Planning Commission.

♦ Appointed Leigh Matthews Bock to the Arts Commission.

♦ Approved a request to seek bids to replace the A Street sewer line. The estimate for the project is $250,000 to $350,000.

♦ Approved the annexation of three lots on W. B Street, west of 7th Street.

♦ Approved the expenditure of up to $50,000 in funds from the Northwest Lebanon Urban Renewal District to pay for a pump to improve pressure at Entek Manufacturing.

Whitlach said that Entek began to experience decreases in pressure after the new Water Treatment Plant went online, primarily when the finish water pumps are turned off at the plant and the system is operating from the city’s two reservoirs.

This prevents Entek from providing water to its boilers, which were designed based on the old Water Treatment Plant, Whitlach said. Prior to the startup of the new plant, Entek had not experienced this issue.

Under an agreement with Entek, the business would be responsible for maintaining the pump.

♦ Approved budget appropriations to accept $100,000 from the Strawberry Festival Board to pay $45,000 for three years rent on 10 acres east of Cheadle Park and for park improvements and a $29,667 pass-through grant for a South Santiam Watershed Council project.

♦ Approved an ordinance extending the hours for retail marijuana shops from 8 to 10 p.m., which is the maximum allowed under state law.

A representative of the local shops had requested the increase in hours during the August council meeting.

Community Development Director Kelly Hart said in nine surrounding cities, none had limited the hours.

♦ Approved a franchise agreement with Peak Internet. Under the agreement, Peak can install infrastructure in public right-of-way. It will pay 6 percent of gross revenue to the City of Lebanon.