Airway Heights will put the shovel in the ground for a long-planned $42 million water reclamation plant in early April in a bid to reuse wastewater, recharge the community’s aquifer, and save money.
The 75-acre plant will be built at Russell Street and 21st Avenue.
City officials have worked on the project for almost 10 years.
Mayor Matthew Pederson called the project “the most significant development in the history of this city” when the City Council voted last week to accept the low bidder for the first phase of construction.
Residents paid for part of the project through increased sewer rates over the past few years. That, combined with public grants and loans, helped launch the plant’s construction.
Once the plant is operating, the city will keep its 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. People could water their lawns with the water, for example, or Fairchild Air Force Base could use it to wash down a runway.
The city began considering the reclamation plant after learning that sewage prices would rise when Spokane upgrades the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility, where Airway Heights’ waste is currently treated. Studies showed it was cheaper in the long run for Airway Heights to build its own reclamation plant.
After being processed at the Spokane plant, treated water flows into the Spokane River.
“Every drop we send down the drain here in Airway Heights and Fairchild (Air Force Base) eventually runs down into the river,” Tripp said in an interview several months ago. “It’s a continual loss. You never see a return.”
The West Plains aquifer, an underground water resource that supplies much of the West Plains, including Airway Heights and Medical Lake, has been dwindling since the beginning of this decade. Water rights are becoming more of an issue in the area as people find themselves drilling deeper and deeper for water.
City officials tout the water reclamation project as a way of alleviating some of the depletion of the aquifer.