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Town studies going alone for sewer

 


It’s all about rates and ownership.

Elmer City has been exploring the development of its own wastewater treatment plant and is inching closer to a decision on whether to split with its longtime service provider, Coulee Dam.

The town council has repeatedly indicated that it would be in its best interest to own its own plant. Their decision will partially be based on the results of an alternative analysis now being prepared by Indian Health Services.

Public works director Jimmer Tillman said the town is going to protect the interests of its 450 sewer customers. Elmer City, with a 2013 population of 234, serves residences inside its boundaries, plus Lone Pine and the Riverview Trailer Park.

Its basic sewer service costs customers $38 a month.

The IHS report, due this summer, will provide the town with some of the choices it has, including whether it would be best to develop its own wastewater treatment plant or stay with Coulee Dam, which handles its present collection and processing system.

Tillman explained that a large percentage of residents in Elmer City are either retired or on fixed incomes.

“Someone has to protect them,” he said.

Mayor Gail Morin concurred. She has educated herself and the council members on what its present service through Coulee Dam is costing the town.

The town is looking at a self-contained treatment pod system, which Tillman says the town could put in place for about $1.2 million.

“If you want to expand the system, you just add a unit,” he stated.

Elmer City has its present needs and future needs to concern itself with, say town officials, who see the possibility of growth north of the town limits.

The pod system takes very limited space and the system has been installed elsewhere in parking lots. It is manufactured and delivered by truck. Simply dig a hole, drop it in, hook it up and you are in business. Well, it might be a little more complicated than that, but not much.

A number of such pod systems are currently in use in Central and Eastern Washington, and one of the manufacturers is in Oregon.

Currently, Elmer City is in its 41st year of a 50-year agreement with Coulee Dam to provide sewer service to the town. Elmer City’s wastewater flow currently accounts for 20-24 percent of Coulee Dam’s treatment total.

“We pay on a flow basis,” Tillman said. “If we had our own plant we could just close the valve and we would be on our own.”

Tillman sees rates in Elmer City rising to $50-$60 a month if the town puts in its own system; higher if the town stays with Coulee Dam, which is in the process of developing a new plant.

“In addition to that, we would own our own system and not be subject to outside budget influences,” Tillman added.

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