City explains investments in wastewater systems
Last month, the city of Molalla sent out a mailer to inform residents and businesses how the city is investing in its wastewater systems. It also noted that these improvements cost money and will increase wastewater rates.
The mailer noted that the city's sewers flow into Molalla's wastewater treatment plant on the Woodburn-Estacada Highway. Two years ago, the city started a multi-year program to bring the existing wastewater systems into compliance in order to prepare for the future. The improvements will increase wastewater rates for homes and businesses, according to the mailer, which also can be found on the city's website.
One of those improvements is to fix the leaks in sewer pipes. Many are old, according to the city, most are over 60 years old. As they age they start to leak and often mix ground and storm water into the sewers, which then mixes within the pipes. The Public Works Department is working on fixing the leaky pipes to reduce wet weather flows from going into the treatment plant.
The city in 2018 identified the largest sources of leaky pipes. Since then it has grouted 58 leaky manholes, sealed more than 100 open cleanouts and fixed all sites where storm drains were flowing into the sewer system.
One area under Fenton Avenue, the old storm water pipe was leaking into the sewage pipe. Once the old pipes were fixed, that stopped happening and is saving the city money. There are six remaining pipeline projects scheduled to completed by 2023. Reducing the leakage means there is less water to be treated, saving Molalla money on the necessary improvements at the treatment plant, according to the mailer.
Molalla has a Wastewater Facility and Collection System Master Plan that was completed in 2018. The city is working to improve the current plant's function and avoid many older and recent chronic permit violations. The treatment plant is coming into compliance quicker than planned due to cost savings and meeting faster schedules on key projects.
In 2004, the city bought a new pump station and pipeline to discharge treated wastewater to the higher flows in the Molalla River instead of Bear Creek. However, the permit still is based on discharge to Bear Creek. The Department of Environmental Quality is currently reviewing Molalla's request for an updated discharge permit.
Since the permit is still based on discharge to Bear Creek, and the city wants to be able to discharge into the larger Molalla River, which has a greater capacity to accept treated wastewater, and the population has grown, the permit needs to be changed. Over the past two years, city workers have finished scientific and engineering studies to understand the capability of the Molalla River to accept treated wastewater.
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