POST FALLS — The city of Post Falls has purchased 245 acres south of the Spokane River between Q'emiln and Corbin parks for $6.5 million as a site to land apply treated wastewater in the future.
The purchase was made to meet more stringent environmental standards as the city is among the agencies on both sides of the border that discharge treated wastewater to the Spokane River.
"A year ago we were touring an Avista dam project and Russ (Connole, the city's public services director) came up to me and pointed across the river to what we thought would be perfect for a land application site," Mayor Ron Jacobson said.
The site is across Interstate 90 and the Spokane River from Post Falls' water reclamation facility — much closer than the land application sites the city purchased on the Rathdrum Prairie several years ago. Having a land application site closer to the facility eliminates at least temporarily the need to fund infrastructure to pump the water from the plant to the prairie.
Jacobson said the purchase also presents the city with future recreation possibilities since the land would be greenspace between the city parks along the river. The site is currently vacant. A portion of it was formerly a hay field.
The purchase involved three properties owned by Lost Mine LLC that are 89.45 acres, 148 and 7.3.
City officials say it’s unclear exactly when land application will start but it could be within five years.
The sites were paid for with the city's water reclamation funds and will not increase taxes.
"The city's 20-year master plan contains a budgeted line item for additional land acquisition for land application," said Shelly Enderud, city administrator. "This land will be used for that purpose. The purchase of the property will not affect the current (sewer) rate or future rate projections."
Post Falls ratepayers are continuing to shoulder wastewater rate increases brought on by stricter environmental standards handed down by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for discharging to the river. The increases are helping fund $12 million in construction costs to upgrade the treatment plant. The improvements are expected to wrap up at the end of the year and started a year ago.
The sewer rates increased 14.5 percent in both fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15 and 10 percent this fiscal year. They are projected to increase 9 percent next year and 7 percent each of the following two years after that.
"It's not that we want to increase fees, but if we don't adhere to federal regulations we'll be fined so you've got to do what you've got to do," Jacobson said.
Post Falls earlier purchased 312 acres at the southwest of Hayden Avenue and Idaho Road; 155 southeast of that intersection; and 154 northeast of Hayden and Greensferry Road.
Jacobson said land application would start at the site along the river first since it is closer to the wastewater plant.
"It is pretty rocky, which is good for land application," he said. "From a logistical standpoint, it would also be less expensive (than pumping it out to the prairie). But, who knows, in 10 to 15 years from now we may need the prairie as well."
Jacobson said the city plans to hold on to the prairie sites for now. He said the earlier purchases didn't go for naught as they could eventually be sold for a profit if they are not needed for land application.
"I don't think we're hurt (from a financial standpoint) by having purchased those properties," he said.