Water treatment plant gets go-ahead

AIRWAY HEIGHTS – City officials will soon bid out the construction of a $44 million wastewater treatment plant, after securing funding for the first $11 million from the state and proposing an increase in sewer fees.

The City Council voted Nov. 17 to accept a grant of almost $3 million – a Centennial Clean Water Grant – from the Department of Ecology.

Sewer fees will rise to $67.50 in January, an increase of $7.50, if the council votes in favor next month.

Construction on the first part of the plant at Russell Street and 21st Avenue should begin by 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.

“We’re right at the cusp of something big with this treatment plant coming,” Mayor Matthew Pederson said at the Nov. 17 City Council meeting. Pederson said multiple parties had “endured a lot of pain together” in working out the logistics of the plant and getting it off the ground.

“All of this has been painful and hard for us. We’ll hopefully see all this pay off,” Pederson said.

Once it’s completed, the city will get to keep its own recycled wastewater to help defray community sewage and water costs in the next 20 years, said City Manager Albert Tripp. The plant will also recycle about half a million gallons of water a day 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 it, or Fairchild Air Force Base personnel could use it to wash down a runway.

Studies showed it was cheaper in the long run for Airway Heights to buy its own reclamation plant instead of relying on the Spokane plant as its service prices mounted.

The plant will sprawl over about 75 acres when finished and Tripp noted that hiring workers for the construction may help boost the local economy.

“That’s the type of jobs that this country needs to get this economy jump-started,” Tripp said.

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


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