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White Bird: $2.5 million for wastewater issues: New urgency with ICL lawsuit filed May 6

WHITE BIRD — Voters in White Bird will be determining approval of issuing $2.5 million in sewer revenue bonds in next Tuesday’s May 20 primary election.

If approved by a two-thirds majority of the qualified electors voting, funds would go toward city plans for either upgrading or rebuilding its municipal wastewater treatment facility.

White Bird as of Monday, May 12, has 61 registered voters.

At issue is the city’s wastewater treatment process, constructed in the late 1970s, that currently serves 83 hookups. Wastewater processing works with an aeration lagoon and a series of sand filters, essentially operating as a large septic system to let treated effluent seep into the adjacent soil.

According to information from City Clerk Sheryl Clark, for the last two years the city has been working on a facility upgrade plan – grant-funded by Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and USDA Rural Development — to address issues of old, deteriorating equipment, and also collection system inflow and infiltration from leaking pipes and manholes.

The project has taken on new urgency with a civil suit filed May 6 in U.S. District Court of Idaho by the Idaho Conservation League (ICL) against the City of White Bird. ICL alleges the city is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act for discharge into White Bird Creek without a NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit, and subsequently the Salmon River, of detectable levels of chlorine, and high levels of phosphorous, nitrogen and dissolved solids.

As part of its suit, ICL seeks the court to declare the city in violation of the Clean Water Act, to impose penalties for discharge violations — $32,500 per day for violation days on or before Oct. 11, 2006; and $37,500 per day for violation days after Oct. 11, 2011 – to ensure that requirements for permitting and reporting discharge are met, and that facility upgrades meet effluent limitations.

Facility plans provided by the city’s contracted project engineers, Mountain Waterworks of Boise, provide three options that have been submitted to DEQ for review and determination, according to Clark. Proposals and estimated costs are as follows: $857,000 to upgrade lagoons with new rapid infiltration liners, improve equipment including aerators; $1.465 million to upgrade the existing lagoons with surface water discharge; and $2.387 million to construct a mechanical treatment plant with surface water discharge.

The city is seeking the $2.5 million bond amount on May 20 to be ready to move on the project as soon as DEQ completes its lagoon discharge data collection, within the next six months, at which time it will determine which of the three city facility plans to approve, according to Clark. Waiting until then to determine a bond amount would delay an election until May 2015, she explained, and if that didn’t pass, it would be rerun that November, “and if that didn’t pass, the state steps in.”

“And you only have to bond for what you need,” Clark said. She explained the city is going for the full amount now, rather than going through an election process for one amount and – if the project turns out to be costing more than estimated — having to return to the voters for more. The city is currently seeking state and federal grant funding to assist with project costs, she said, so depending on what comes in the bond – if approved — will be figured to meet any remaining expenses.

“And we’re hoping that will be as low as it could be,” Clark said.

For information on the bond election or the proposed project, contact city hall: 839-2294.


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