Oxidation Ditch

Prior to 1971, Stevenson residents were either discharging sewage straight into the Columbia River or burying an old Studebaker in the back yard as a make shift septic tank.  My, how times have changed!  Our 1971 sewer system improvements were adequate through the 70’s and 80’s up until the economic restructuring we experienced in the early 90’s.  The construction of the Skamania Lodge helped Stevenson become a major tourist destination and the improvements made at the sewer plant carried us through another 25 years.  Now, as the “Great Recession” ends, our economy is going through another shift; residential and tourism industry growth is being joined by an increasingly competitive industrial sector.  With these trends, the community must improve the way it cleans its waste water.

What is the Problem?

The Stevenson community has grown, and the wastewater treatment plant is receiving more waste than we are allowed to under our permit from the state Department of Ecology.  This extra waste stretches the plant’s capacity and threatens to pollute the waters of the Columbia River and Rock Creek.  The Department of Ecology has informed us of this violation and is ordering us to comply with the terms of our permit.  Failure to do so could result in fines, moratoria on future growth or new connections, or other penalties.

How Can the Problem be Solved?

The current solution involves a substantial construction program at the waste water treatment plant and in the collection system.

Plant Layout

Additional improvements may be necessary from individual users in order to reduce the overall amount of waste that enters to system.  Residences can do this by avoiding sending food waste and animal waste down the drain.  Restaurants can undertake operational and physical changes to prevent greases and other food waste from reaching the treatment plant.  Industrial users can develop pretreatment facilities to reduce the demands they place on the overall system.

What Will it Take to Solve it?

Ultimately, it will take money.  The total amount is unknown at this time, but we need to prepare for one of the biggest investments this community has ever had to make.  City staff together with partners from the Skamania County Economic Development Council and the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District are exploring every avenue available to reduce these costs.  Grant funding is being explored from the federal sources such as the Economic Development Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bonneville Power Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.  State sources such as the Department of Ecology, Community Economic Revitalization Board, and Public Works Board are being pursued.

Our success in obtaining outside funds will help us accommodate the next wave of growth.  Unfortunately we will still have some growing pains that will be felt through our users’ monthly bills.  The current proposed fee structure attempts to balance these pains evenly based on the treatment needs for different users.  This attempt at equity means that residences are not being asked to pay for businesses, industrial users are not footing the bill for residents, and future growth will have to pay its own proportionate share of the current improvements.

With these solutions and rate structures, we hope we have struck the right balance to keep our community viable, thriving, and increasingly successful.  However, if you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or guidance, please share them with City staff and the decision makers on City Council.  Their goal is to treat the waste that comes through our system in a way that is best for our community, and they are approaching that goal with open eyes, ears, and hearts.  Contact them at (509) 427-5970, utilities@ci.stevenson.wa.us, or citycouncil@ci.stevenson.wa.us.

How Else Can I Help?

To reduce the amount of waste you send down the drain, incorporate these good habits into your daily practices.

If you really want to dig deep into this difficult issue, you are welcome to join the The Stevenson Waste Water Clarifiers.  This ad hoc committee has been set up to review and make recommendations on key decisions, and provides a direct link to the City Council.  All are welcome, so please check with the Clarifiers’ website for more information on past and upcoming meetings.

Important Documents

State Permits and City Compliance

General Sewer Plan & Wastewater Facility Plan

High Strength User Engineering Analyses

Additional Engineering Analyses

Financial and Rate Analyses