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Winlock looking at infrastructure overhaul for water and sewer lines

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The City of Winlock is taking steps to begin updating its utility infrastructure after receiving reports of significant deficiencies in both its water and sewer systems.

Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell said Thursday the city is pursuing state-funded grants to replace its oldest water mains while hoping to later update its entire sewer system, with some improvements already taking place.

“Myself and this council want to fix problems, not just wait,” said Dowell, stating it is his administration’s hope to pro-actively get ahead of potential infrastructure failures rather than simply react to them.

Dowell said the water system currently has so many leaks it is placing extra strain on the pumps used to replenish the city’s water towers, causing the $35,000 pieces of equipment to wear out and require replacement sooner than expected. While a recent study by Utility Service Associates identified 10 problem areas leaking a total of around 40 gallons per minute, Dowell said the repair of these areas, which began May 7, is expected to be followed by more leaks in other parts of the system as the repairs restore water pressure to the lines.

Instead of merely hopping from one leak to another, Dowell said the city is pursuing a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to replace entire sections of water mains and reduce both the leaks and the need to chase after them.

“We’re trying to identify the oldest lines,” he said, stating engineers with Gray & Osborne are preparing the grant application and will be providing specific project estimates, adding the city is eligible to receive as much as $750,000 in CDBG funding.

Expected to be more costly is the replacement of the city’s sewer lines, which Dowell said may require grants and/or loans from the Department of Ecology on top of additional CDBG funding, adding he is not certain yet what the cost would be for the project.

Dowell said significant infiltration into the system has led to recent bypasses at the sewer plant during high flow events in November, February and March, and it is estimated the largest degree of infiltration is coming from private side sewers, as well as gutters connected to the sewer system rather than the storm drains.

Dowell said the city does not expect to apply for sewer replacement funding until next year while pursuing CDBG this year for water main funding, for which the application deadline is June 19. An associated public hearing for this application has been scheduled for June 9 in City Hall.

In the mean time, repairs to the problem areas identified by Utility Service Associates continues, including the largest leak of 15 gallons per minute located under First St. and Griffith St. Dowell said, to save funding, the City Council has approved the Public Works Department to address the leaks rather than a contractor, adding funding for these projects currently exists within the city’s water/sewer fund. He also said repairs to these problems areas is expected to continue through the summer.

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