North Bend sewer at the ‘pinch point’ | City declares emergency, OKs fix

North Bend processes about 1 million gallons of sewage in its 60 year-old wastewater treatment plant every day, a little less during the dry season. On paper, the city could handle more than double that, but in reality, the plant’s intake has been limited to the million mark for the past six months to a year.

It’s a “pinch-point” that consultants say must be eliminated soon, North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell said. In response, the North Bend City Council declared an emergency at the sewer treatment plant Aug. 19, and awarded more than $236,000 in repair contracts to four companies. Citing “operational deficiencies” that “present both a real and immediate threat to the proper performance of the (wastewater treatment plant) and a risk of material damage to the environment and to the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River if immediate action is not taken,” the council unanimously agreed to the emergency declaration and the repairs.

The emergency status allows the city to skip the required step of advertising for bids, which typically takes several weeks. The authorized repairs, replacing an oxidation ditch outlet structure, replacing two of the plant’s four aeration rotors, and construction and installation of a new conveyance system and loading area for the processed solid materials, or sludge, are expected to be complete before the year’s end.

Funds for the work will come from the city’s sewer capital projects fund, with a current balance of more than $1.2 million.

These projects are just the beginning of a long list of recommendations made last March to resolve problems at the plant. The initial repairs estimate from consultants and the city’s former Public Works Director was about $1.5 million, although the long-term suggestions totaled more than $3 million.

Those recommendations included new equipment, safety improvements, hiring three additional staff members and reducing a critical measure, the biochemical oxygen demand or BOD, in the wastewater.

“Nothing is being punted at this point,” Lindell said of the longer-term recommendations, adding that the city was advised by the consultant, Tetra Tech, to act quickly on the bottleneck. “The idea is to implement these highly critical projects that need to be done …. We don’t want to have an environmental problem.”

The high BOD measurements problem has already been resolved, because it was “a false positive,” Lindell said. The levels were mistakenly being doubled when the city took readings over the past three years, resulting in a level too high for the city’s size and number of residents.

North Bend’s sewer treatment plant was built in 1964, and is licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency to process 2.58 million gallons of waste daily.


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