December 25, 2008 in Voices

Airway Heights raises sewer rates for new facility

Work on first phase will begin in spring
Jeslyn Lemke Correspondent
 

Airway Heights sewer rates will rise another $7.50 this year to boost the construction of the city’s new $44 million wastewater treatment plant.

About 750 residents have a sewer account with the city, which has a population of more than 5,000. The rates will increase to $67.50 in January.

Few citizens showed up to the final public hearing on the sewer rates and no one commented.

Mayor Matthew Pederson said he was aware of the pain of both the community and the council at having to raise the fee, but added that this wastewater plant will, in the long run, make for lesser fees for citizens.

“It is a necessary evil in light of funding for this project,” Pederson said.

The city has also pursued state funding for the project and secured several public loans, including a $3 million loan from the Department of Ecology.

“Staff, as well as council, are both seeking all the avenues of relief that we can,” Pederson said.

The plant will one day take local sewage and process it into reusable water. This will be cheaper in the long run than continuing to drain wastewater down to the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility, as the city does.

“The sooner we get out from Spokane sewers, the better off we’ll be,” Pederson said.

The city will soon bid out the construction of the first phase of the plant, which will cost about $11 million.

Construction for this first part of the plant at Russell Street and 21st Avenue, should begin in April and be finished in about 10 months.

The plant won’t have the capability to offer public services until completion of its second part, which will cost roughly $32 million in today’s figures.

Once completed, the city will keep its own recycled wastewater to help defray community sewage and water costs in the next 20 years, according to city manager Albert Tripp.

The plant will recycle about half a million gallons of water a day back into the West Plains aquifer, which has been declining.

The purified water won’t be suitable for drinking but could be used for irrigation, commercial or industrial use and for wetlands. For example, people could water their lawns with this water, or Fairchild Air Force Base personnel could use it to wash down a runway.

The plant will cover about 75 acres when finished.

Contact correspondent Jeslyn Lemke by e-mail at jlemke12@yahoo.com.

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