Genesee takes step toward new wastewater facility

·3 min read

Aug. 19—A new and improved Genesee wastewater facility took a step toward construction Wednesday night after the Latah County Zoning Commission unanimously approved a conditional-use permit for the facility.

A new city wastewater system is needed to meet state and federal requirements and avoid potential fines, officials say.

"I see no issues with this," Commission Vice Chairman Brian Loomis said. "It definitely is for the betterment of the public and public health."

The facility, a three-cell lagoon system with seasonal land application, is proposed to be built south of town, with the majority of the facility in Nez Perce County and the remaining portion in Latah County.

Scott Becker, principal engineer and president of Hodge and Associates in Moscow, said Nez Perce County approved a conditional-use permit for the facility Tuesday night.

"This was ultimately the best site that we could come up with," said Becker, who represented Genesee at Wednesday's meeting.

Becker said the proposed facility is in the area of city impact but is "out of sight, out of mind," which makes it an ideal site.

The existing facility is southwest of town, mostly in Nez Perce County on Cow Creek Road. The facility was built in the 1930s and upgraded in the 1950s to replace public septic tanks with the current earthen-lined lagoon. It discharges water into Cow Creek, while the new facility is away from the creek and won't discharge water into it, Becker said.

He said the new lagoons will treat wastewater and then irrigate surrounding vegetation with the treated water in the summer. The water will be stored in the winter.

The facility will also include modern liners that will prevent seepage beyond current limits, a nitrification unit that will enable the system to meet discharge ammonia limits and a disinfection unit, according to the Latah County Zoning Commission's packet Wednesday.

Genesee residents passed a $6.2 million bond in 2019 to fund the construction of the facility.

The project has not been out to bid, so the exact price tag of the facility is unknown, Becker said after Wednesday's meeting. He said he is unsure when it will be bid. The city has to close on the purchase of the land and Mountain Waterworks, an engineering firm in Lewiston, needs to finish the design of the project.

In 2017, Genesee received a wastewater discharge permit that includes requirements the existing facility does not meet, Ryan Rehder, Lewiston regional manager for Mountain Waterworks, said in 2019.

From 2014-17, Rehder said the city committed 1,326 violations of the Clean Water Act as a result of the deficient wastewater system. He said the seepage limit is based on a monthly average, so if a city does not meet that month's limit, a violation is counted for each day of that month.

The EPA fined the city twice in the past five years as of 2019. The agency handed down the most recent fine in 2018 for $30,000 — negotiated down from $216,000 — which the city paid.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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