The District facilities are located on the south side of the Pend Oreille River 1.5 miles south of Sandpoint, Idaho and were originally formed in the early 1970s to provide water and sewer services along the river between Springy Point and Fry Creek. The facilities consisted of a collection system, lagoon aeration cells and a storage pond located on Lakeshore Drive. A land application site with a winter storage lagoon is located one mile south of the treatment site. The original facilities were funded through grants and municipal bonds.
In 1995 a Local Improvement District (LID) was formed to provide sewer service to an area on both sides of Fry Creek between BNSFRR and US Hwy 95. The property was annexed into the District in 1976, however services were not available. This added 268 residential parcels to the District which resulted in 157 active sewer hook-ups and 111 non active hookups. In addition, there were 57 hook-ups in the original district, which had been purchased but were not active. The LID funded a collection system for the new expanded area, a 23 million gallon (mg) winter storage lagoon and a new sprinkler irrigation system.
In 2001 the District applied to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) for a matching funds grant to create a Wastewater Facilities Plan (WFP) which would guide the District’s development over the next 20 years. The grant was awarded and in 2002 the District contracted with J-U-B Engineering to conduct the study and arrive at options to meet increasing demands for service.
Almost simultaneously, IDEQ conducted an onsite evaluation of the District’s facilities and issued to the District a revised Wastewater Land Application Permit (WLAPS). The new permit limited the land application to 21.6 mg which was less than needed to accommodate existing commitments. Based on historical records this limitation would allow the District to service only 320 hook-ups. The District is currently committed to 488 hook-ups. The Plan submitted by J-U-B Engineers in 2003 gave the District several options. After evaluating the options, the District Board of Directors chose to pursue a hybrid solution which consisted of land application at the existing site during April through September and a discharge of treated effluent into Pend Oreille River, October through March.
The District applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the discharge permit. The District’s proposed plan met or exceeded the EPA requirements for the applied permit, and a Draft Permit was issued in 2004. Adverse public opinion expressed during the Public Comment period resulted in the EPA withholding the final permit until the District considered other options. The District was now forced to declare a temporary building moratorium in April 2004 and a permanent moratorium in October 2004.
In 2005 the City of Sandpoint sponsored a Citizen Advisory Group to investigate the possibilities of forming a regional sewer district to meet the future needs of the five individual sewer districts within the Sandpoint area. The consensus was that a regional district should be formed and a system built to handle all sewage requirements of the five existing systems. A time line was not established and the District was still faced with a building moratorium and needed to find a solution to the existing problem.
With the general consensus to form a regional sewer district at some point in the future, it was proposed that the District pump its excess sewage to the existing Sandpoint Treatment Facility to take advantage of their excess capacity during low use periods. The program was supported by the IDEQ but after much discussion this solution was ultimately rejected by the City of Sandpoint.
The District also investigated the following options:
* Purchase or lease of property to expand the existing land application system. The biggest drawback being the lack of suitable property being available without condemnation.
* Construction of an Activate Sludge or an MBR Class A Reclamation system with seasonal discharge to the Pend Oreille River.
* Promoting a Regional Sewer District including Sandpoint, Dover, Kootenai, Ponderay, Schweitzer and Southside.
All of these options have advantages and disadvantages, the main concerns being time and cost.
Following Sandpoint’s rejection to pump the excess effluent to the Sandpoint facility, the District decided to request an NPDES permit from the EPA for discharge into the Pend Oreille River using an MBR system. J-U-B Engineers revised the Wastewater Facility Plan and presented it to IDEQ in January 2008. IDEQ approved the plan and forwarded it to EPA for a discharge permit.
Unbeknownst to the District, the Surface Water Division of IDEQ had listed the Pend Oreille River as impaired with Phosphorus. This decision was based on very little data and a study was required to determine if, in fact, the Pend Oreille River is impaired with phosphorus. As a result, the EPA would not issue any new discharge permits until such time as IDEQ qualified or removed the impaired status. To date, IDEQ has not removed the impaired status nor have they funded a study.
During the time the District has been on a moratorium, property owners have been allowed to install septic systems and build wherever Panhandle Health District requirements can be met. These systems will have to be abandoned when adequate sewer connections are available. There have been sixteen residences built under these conditions since the moratorium was established in 2004.
To provide temporary relief from the moratorium, the District plans to install an additional irrigation system that will provide maximum use of the existing land application site. This will enable the District to disburse enough effluent to service 40-60 more users while the District pursues a more permanent expansion option.
The total cost of the project, including the expanded irrigation system, lift station upgrades, engineering and contingencies is not to exceed $1,000,000. We propose to finance the project by obtaining a low interest IDEQ loan which is available from stimulus funding. The loan will be paid back, over 20 years, by increasing sewer user fees no more than $17.30 per month; some of which may be offset by applying a portion of new hookup fees.
In the early 70’s when the system became operational there were thirty (30) homes connected. The District increased by an average of eleven (11) hook ups per year until 1996 when the Fry Creek addition became operational.