Ontario City Hall

This photo shows the Ontario City Hall.

ONTARIO — Biosolids was a word that received a lot of attention at Tuesday night’s Ontario City Council meeting and a new proposal to remove them could save the city about $750,000 in costs.

City of Ontario Engineer Betsy Roberts gave a presentation to the council telephonically regarding the state of the biosolids removal project at the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

Roberts said that there is over 25 years’ worth of biosolids accumulation and that now is a good time to begin the removal process as testing of the solids revealed “exceptional quality biosolids.” Roberts emphasized that that description came from the report. She also said that the solids have a low nitrogen level and “won’t over-fertilize” if placed on soil used for farming. Roberts said that these biosolids have been approved to move out onto farm fields.

The tentative plan was to remove a portion of the biosolids and send them to a landfill located in Payette, however, the new proposal presented by Roberts at the meeting was to remove a portion of the biosolids, process them and spread them over fields as an agricultural measure.

Mayor Riley Hill asked Roberts how the materials would be transported to the farm site. She indicated that a local hauler would be used for the actual transportation to the site and once there, the Oregon Department of Environment Quality only allows for the solids to be stockpiled on site for a few days.

Roberts said that the city would need to purchase a spreader in order to disperse the biosolids over the field as it needs to be done within a short timeframe and this equipment would allow for the task to be completed within that time.

She also noted that while the spreader would belong to the city, it would only need to be used “about every five years” when more biosolids are removed from the city’s lagoons and the process is done again. Roberts said that if the city did not wish to keep the spreader, the option to sell it at a later date is a possibility.

“I’m not in favor of buying the machine,” said Hill.

When the council took a vote on whether to make the purchase, the only two dissenting votes came from Hill and Councilor Freddy Rodriguez.

The next item relating to the wastewater treatment plant that required Council approval is a preliminary design for a diffuser to be used at the facility. The cost of the design for this equipment is estimated to be around $35,000. As with the previous vote, the only two dissenting votes came from Hill and Rodriguez.

The City Council had previously approved Jacobs, the city of Ontario’s public works department, to spend up to $2.3 million for solids removal so no additional money had to be moved from any city funds to pay for this equipment and associated costs according to Ontario Finance Director Kari Ott.

“There are no budgetary changes to be made. We budgeted $2.3 million for the biosolids removal project in 2020-2021, and the equipment is part of that project. The spreader and the diffuser both are being paid out of the Sewer Fund since they are solely for wastewater operations,” said Ott.

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