Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hailey sewer rates could go up

EPA discharge restrictions hold steady

Express Staff Writer

An effort started by Hailey officials in 2006 to loosen restrictions on effluent discharges into the Big Wood River failed last month, likely leaving the citizens of Hailey with an unexpected increase in monthly sewer rates.

"This is not a surprise," said Sonny Buhidar, regional water quality manager for the Idaho Department of Water Quality. "The Big Wood River is essentially a pristine river and citizens in that area want to keep it clean. These are requirements they have imposed on themselves. In order to keep the standards they have to treat the water."

Treating the discharge of treated water into the Big Wood River from Hailey's Woodside sewer plant is expected to cost an additional $132,000 during the upcoming fiscal year, wrote Public Works Director Tom Hellen in a memo to the Hailey City Council earlier this week.

The projected increase is primarily due to a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 28. The permit governs the quality and amount of sewage treatment effluent that Hailey may discharge into the Big Wood River.

Hellen said that to meet the EPA guidelines, the city will have to increase monthly rates from $39.33 to $47.05, an increase of $7.72 per month. He said that would cover the costs of additional employee hours as well as additional treatment and monitoring practices.

In 2002, the EPA restricted Hailey's total maximum daily load of treated solids to 18 pounds per day. Hellen challenged the limit in 2006, calling for an allowable 44 pounds per day, a standard that would have been much easier, and much less expensive, to meet.

Mayor Fritz Haemmerle called for a review of Hellen's requested funding increase for staff hours to meet the requirements Monday.

"They are not justified yet to my satisfaction," Haemmerle said.

Bahudir said the cities of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley have some of the "finest" wastewater treatment facilities in the sate. He also said that keeping the high quality standards for the Big Wood River could continue to pose financial challenges for cities along its length.

"You're dealing with cold-water [trout] spawning issues," he said. "You get into seasonal concerns, including the temperatures of effluents into and out of wastewater facilities.

In other Hailey news:

( The City Council approved a not-to-exceed budget for fiscal 2012 of $11,048,101, including funding that could be required to meet EPA discharge limits into the Big Wood River.

( Haemmerle announced that Sustainability Director Mariel Platt is working with City Attorney Ned Williamson on a Complete Streets sidewalks plan, otherwise known as Title 18.

Tony Evans:

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