Planning begins on wastewater plant upgrade

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

The Sandpoint City Council got the ball rolling Wednesday on a long-planned upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant.

Members voted to approve a contract with J-U-B Engineers that will update the city’s wastewater treatment plan. According to Public Works Director Ryan Luttmann, the plan will help city officials determine whether it is more prudent to simply upgrade the existing wastewater treatment facility or build a new plant on city property off Baldy Mountain Road. The $201,925 contract is included in the city’s budget and is paid for in part by a $65,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

“Grants awarded under this program must be used to prepare facility plans that identify the most cost-effective, environmentally sound methods to upgrade public wastewater systems to achieve and maintain compliance with state and federal standards,” Luttmann said in a memo to council members.

The question of whether to build a new site or upgrade existing facilities has long been a subject of council attention. According to the city’s original wastewater treatment master plan, also compiled by J-U-B Engineers in 2007, the existing site on Ella Avenue won’t hold up to long-term use, and the construction of a new site is recommended. However, since collecting funding, completing a design and constructing a new facility usually requires a minimum of 10 years, the master document suggests that facility upgrades might be sufficient to allow for a thorough planning and funding process.

According to Luttmann, it’s high time to take action on one of those options. In a memo to council memos, he said that a number of components to the existing plant are near the end of their life cycle. This comes on the cusp of the city obtaining a new discharge permit with stricter discharge standards.

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