GOLD HILL, Ore. – Gold Hill City Council Members are meeting Monday night to decide how to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in DEQ fines for not meeting clean water rules from the city’s aging sewage treatment plant. City officials say they have little choice by to enter into an agreement with DEQ to make repairs and updates.
The city of Gold Hill has put off for at least 20 years how to meet changing federal waste-water treatment standards. Now they won’t be able to put it off any longer. A string of letters between state officials, and non-response from the city, is forcing DEQ to demand action or face hefty fines.
“The good news is that the half of the treatment plant is capable of treating all the sewage. The bad news is you need the other half of the sewage plant to maintain the other part,” explained DEQ Engineer John Gasik. “So, it’s been at least 20 years since they’ve done any maintenance on that half of the sewage treatment plant that they’re treating their sewage with.”
That was the city’s way of avoiding the expense of new facilities. But Gasik says if they have a major failure, they would be no backup and raw sewage would go straight to the Rogue River. While the city has put off for many years doing any major repairs or upgrade to the sewage treatment plant, it looks like the time has finally come when they’re going to have to do something or face some serious fines, but that won’t come cheap. It could double or even triple many people’s water and sewer bills, like 50 to 100 dollars a month more, just for sewer bills.
“I would recommend that since a project of this nature takes over about a five year period, that the rates could be increased gradually over five years, say ten dollars in each of the next five years to ultimately reach the $50,” said City Manager, Dale Shaddox.
When the treatment plant was built 30-years ago, it was state-of-the art for a city Gold Hill’s size. When EPA rules on treatment of solids changed ten years later is when the city had to improvise treatment to meet the new standards.