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Falls City wastewater plans

FALLS CITY -- Falls City took its first step toward drafting a new wastewater master plan last week.

FALLS CITY -- Falls City took its first step toward drafting a new wastewater master plan last week.

That's a good thing, as more than a year has passed since the city received the grant to pay for the plans. The city also needs to send the plans to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for approval.

In February 2011, the city received a $106,500 Community Development Block Grant from the state's Infrastructure Finance Authority to complete an updated plan. The grant expires after two years.

"We would like to have this wrapped up this summer," said John McGee, the city's engineer. "The clock started ticking in February 2011 and we have to have a document to DEQ within a few months (for review)."

City officials met with McGee and city Public Works staff Thursday at the Falls City Community Center to provide a starting point for a new master plan.

McGee said the city's system was built in response to private septic systems failing in the 1970s and 1980s. The system's total capacity in the winter is about 79,500 gallons per day.

However, due to rain water leaking into the system at numerous points during heavy rainfall, the amounts could reach beyond capacity.

The problem is that with the system at times at or near capacity, the city has no room for growth or ability to address anticipated changes in environmental regulations, McGee said.

He said during the dry months of the year, the average daily flow is about 25,000 gallons, leading him to believe that plugging major rain water leaks, also called inflow and infiltration -- or I and I -- would make a difference.

"If we could find a way to not treat rain water, we have pretty good capacity," he said.

Public Works employee Don Poe added he was concerned about the potential of failure in part of the aging system.

"The city has to have a backup ... redundancy," he said.

Another issue the city faces is funding. Falls City Mayor Amy Houghtaling said the city is eligible for another block grant to upgrade the system, but would have to raise rates to qualify.

Those at the meeting agreed, given that funding is a concern, that the city should focus on making improvements and small additions -- such as building another drain field -- instead of planning large-scale upgrades.

"We don't want to scrap the system we've got," McGee said. "We want to make incremental improvements that reduce I and I ... and explore options to add redundancy."

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