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Coburg wins federal funds for sewer.

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

COBURG - The last Lane County city where residents still flush their toilets into septic tanks got a boost this week: It will receive $500,000 in federal funds toward construction of a wastewater treatment system, expected to begin later this year.

Congress this week passed a bill that included a half-million dollar grant to help construct a wastewater system in Coburg to protect and improve the region's groundwater, said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield.

Wastewater treatment for Coburg was a priority in a Southern Willamette Valley groundwater management plan devised by a panel of regional residents and officials after the state Department of Environmental Quality found persistent unacceptably high nitrate levels in about 100 wells between Interstate 5 and Highway 99W from Coburg to Monroe. The levels pose a health risk to animals and humans, with infants and nursing women particularly vulnerable. A study by the agency concluded that some of the nitrates were produced by septic systems that discharge waste into the ground.

City officials plan to eliminate such pollution by channeling Coburg waste into a treatment system that would clean it up to state standards and allow it to be discharged into agricultural fields in the summer and into Muddy Creek in the winter.

With just more than 1,000 residents, Coburg is one of only a few Oregon cities of its size without a sanitary sewer system.

Mayor Judy Volta said it will cost about $18.6 million to build a wastewater treatment system for the city's residents plus several major RV factories.

"The city is hoping to break ground this year," she said. "That's been our plan all along. Our longtime dream looks like it's becoming reality."

The city plans to begin constructing transmission lines this fall, mostly in existing city rights of way, said Jack Detweiller, an engineer with Kennedy Jenks Consulting, the firm the city has hired to plan the system. The first section is likely to be installed along Industrial Way, home to the Marathon and Monaco motor coach manufacturing plants, Detweiller said.

Coburg has yet to apply for a state discharge permit for its sewage system. However, the state already has approved the city's plans for the collection lines, so the city can proceed with that portion of the construction, the DEQ said. The city hopes to start connecting to individual homes in 2009 and begin operating its wastewater system by 2010, Volta said.

To save time and money, the City Council decided last year to build a "water reclamation" sewer system rather than build a conventional wastewater treatment plant or seek to pipe its waste to the existing Eugene-Springfield sewage plant off Belt Line Road in Eugene, Volta said. Those options would have cost as much as $23.3 million - even if the city could have won needed government approvals.

Coburg plans to use wastewater collection technology developed by a Sutherlin company, Orenco Systems. The system calls for installing primary treatment tanks at each residence or business. The tanks convert solid sewage waste into liquid form. The liquid is then pumped to a community treatment plant, where filtration and biological reactions cleanse the wastewater to the point of meeting state standards for use in the irrigation of farmland, parks, school grounds, and public and private landscaping. In winter months, the treated effluent will be discharged into a wetland that leads to Muddy Creek, a Willamette River tributary.

The system will need state Department of Environmental Quality approval, Detweiller said, but similar systems are already in place at Oregon Gardens in Silverton and in the city of Yelm, Wash.

Detweiller said preliminary tests indicate that the system would be effective at treating waste from Coburg's industries, too.

"Coburg is fortunate in that its industries don't use a lot of water in their manufacturing process," he said. He said an analysis of wastewater from one RV factory "came out looking pretty close to household wastewater."

DeFazio cited the city's industrial potential in his announcement, saying lack of a wastewater treatment facility has hindered industrial expansion.

"I am pleased I was able to help secure this funding for Coburg's wastewater system," DeFazio said.

"Water infrastructure and water quality are important to fortifying the long-term economic viability of our communities. This funding will help Coburg to build the necessary infrastructure that helps attract new businesses, create jobs and improve the economy."

Milo Mecham, a Lane Council of Governments attorney who advises the Coburg City Council, last year estimated an average Coburg homeowner would pay a total of $50 to $65 a month for the new system. Of that, $45 to $53 would be for operations expenses, and $5 to $12 would be to retire 15 to 20 years of bond debt for construction.

Industrial customers such as RV manufacturers Monaco and Marathon would pay significantly higher rates, Mecham said.
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Title Annotation:General News; The $500,000 grant will help build an $18.6 million wastewater treatment system for residences and businesses
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 30, 2007
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