A citizen committee looking at how best to connect hundreds of homes to Bend’s sewer system toured a mobile home park, a neighborhood and a pump station Thursday.
The 13-member committee is focusing on a neighborhood bordered by Reed Market Road to the north, 15th Street to the east, Ferguson Road to the south and the Central Oregon Irrigation District canal to the west. Hundreds of homes in the area rely on individual septic tanks.
They’ll also be within 300 feet of a major new sewer line when it’s completed in 2018. If a septic system fails at any property within 300 feet of a sewer line, state law requires the homeowner to connect to the sewer instead of repairing the septic system.
That could mean that a homeowner living just less than 300 feet from the line would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to run a pipe from the home to the sewer line, while neighbors could later tie into the new pipe for much less. The committee will look at options to spread the cost around a neighborhood or the entire city.
The committee also will help design the system itself and decide how homes will connect.
One type of solution was found at the tour’s first stop, the Romaine Village mobile home park. Each lot has an individual pressure system that pumps sewage from the home until it reaches a larger pipe, then flows by gravity to the treatment plant. There are about 250 such pumps in Bend, Development Services Director Russell Grayson said.
“In terms of initial costs, this is the cheaper solution,” he said. “But in the long run, it costs more.”
In this type of system, homeowners have to pay to repair or replace their failing pumps. Some pumps in Romaine Village have been fine since they were installed 16 years ago, city maintenance worker Orrin Libolt said, while others have been replaced several times because residents abused them by flushing unflushable objects.
Another system involves both home pumps and regional pumping stations, such as the Murphy Pump Station near Murphy and Brosterhous roads. The Murphy station, the third stop on the tour, will close when the new sewer line is complete.
This type of system is relatively cheap to install, but it costs homeowners and the city more to operate and maintain.
The city does a lot to mitigate odors at the pumping station, but the smell is still there. That rotten-egg smell results when there’s no longer oxygen in the system, project manager Skip Martin said.
“When you get raw sewage, it’s there, and it’s OK as long as it’s got oxygen to keep it alive,” he said. But when the oxygen is gone, “it’s always gonna stink. It’s never going to smell good.”
A third system, which the city uses where possible, transmits waste by gravity instead of pump systems. This means infrastructure initially costs more because some pipes have to be built as much as 30 feet below the surface, but homeowners and the city pay less to maintain the system.
“Gravity really is the long-term solution for Bend,” consultant Libby Barg said.
Bend’s topography means some homes will likely have to have pumps, said Charlie Rowles, a 62-year-old civil engineer and committee member who lives in one of the houses affected.
“We live on a rock, and we have to keep that in mind when we build the sewer,” he said.
The committee is scheduled to meet next on Aug. 10 to discuss funding sources.
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