GLENDALE — No one likes talking about sewage, says Glendale Public Works Superintendent Ned Dausel.
But he can’t avoid the subject. The small town’s 36-year-old sewer plant sometimes dumps raw sewage and untreated wastewater into Cow Creek.
The problem occurs during hard rains. The rain seeps into the city’s network of leaky underground pipes and joins the wastewater flowing into the plant.
When the combination of stormwater and wastewater fills up the plant’s 18-foot deep cement pit, untreated water runs into an overflow pipe and into the creek.
Although it has been nearly 18 months since the plant was overwhelmed and polluted the creek, it has happened more than once in recent years, and the city and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality hope to prevent it from happening again.
DEQ wants to install pumps that kick on automatically to divert the overflow water through a filter to remove particles and to disinfect and dechlorinate the water before it goes into the creek.
“We would process the maximum through the plant and any leftover (water) goes to the filter. That way we have no untreated water going into the creek,” Dausel said.
DEQ senior engineer Jon Gasik said the peak-flow system would be about half as expensive as a new plant, which would cost an estimated $8.27 million.
The current plant is too small at times, but in good shape, he said. “We are looking to refurbish rather than build a new one.”
The plans are being examined by DEQ, and Glendale anticipated the project will be eligible for state funding by December. If all goes well, the project could go out for bid next spring, Dausel said.
“We got another winter to go through, but then after that, we should be smooth sailing,” he said.
Glendale will have to come up with $1.8 million of the $4.6 million needed for the peak-flow pumps and repairing pipes, he said.
Mayor Jim Standard said the city is pursuing a 25-year loan to pay its portion of the bill. The nearly 900 residents will see an increase to the $48 per month sewer change to help pay the loan. Standard did not have an estimate of what the new fee will be, but he said he doesn’t believe it will cause anger.
“Everybody realizes this is going to have to happen to do the work that we need to have done on this plant,” Standard said.
It would not be the first time Glendale has spent a considerable amount of money on the plant. Dausel said $1.2 million in repairs have been made since he was hired in 2004. Among the fixes were plugging holes in the collection system pipe.
The plant, built in 1977, was designed to treat 450,000 gallons of water per day. Gasik said Glendale’s average summer flow is 120,000 gallons a day. Although rare, that number in the winter time can climb to 4 million, he said.
Dausel said it’s the unpredictable rainfall in the winter that tends to overwhelm the system. When there is a spill of raw sewage, Glendale must notify the public, post warning signs near the creek and alert treatment plants downstream.
“When it starts raining 2 to 3 inches in a one- to two-day period, we become inundated with extra flow that we cannot process,” Dausel said. “The ground also fills up with water, and in the wintertime around here, the table rises to where you go down a foot you hit water. … When that happens, if you have holes in the collection system, the pipes leak.”
Gasik said Glendale will have to continue fixing holes in the underground collection system.
“We’re asking them to say, ‘Yes, we will have an ongoing program to fix the leaky pipes because that is an ongoing issue,’” Gasik said.
He also said Glendale is not the only community struggling with inadequate treatment plants.
“Powers (in Coos County), for instance. They are going to replace their entire collection system because of their problem,” he said. “They are even more leaky than Glendale.”
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.