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Wastewater plant construction begins in Airway Heights

Ecological, financial benefits expected

Ground was broken late last week on the Airway Heights wastewater treatment plant in what city leaders have dubbed the most significant development in city history.

This launches Phase I A of construction at Russell Street and 21st Avenue and allows bidding to begin on Phase I B. This first stage will cost about $11 million and should take about 10 months, while the second phase will cost roughly $32 million in today’s figures.

Public works director Bryan St. Clair said the tentative target date for the plant’s completion, costing approximately $44 million, is June 2011.

A call for a treatment plant operator has gone out, but St. Clair said the response so far has been limited. “It might be because this is a high certification position, but we’re not going to hire just anybody. We plan to be pretty picky,” he said.

By processing local sewage into reusable water, the plant is estimated to send about half a million gallons of water a day back into the West Plains aquifer, which has declined recently.

“This plant will be good for Airway Heights and good for the environment,” St. Clair said.

City officials tout long-term cost benefits of the plant as well, pointing to more than $750,000 in yearly costs associated with deferring wastewater to the city of Spokane’s reclamation facility.

In order to secure funding for the project, Airway Heights Mayor Matthew Pederson has made frequent visits to state legislators over the last year, and the city accepted a grant of almost $3 million from the Department of Ecology. A slight increase in city sewer fees will also contribute to the project.

St. Clair said he believes the outlook is positive for funding further phases of the plant. “If the funds continue to fall in place, we can rock ’n’ roll,” he said.

Reach correspondent Ryan Lancaster by e-mail at