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Builders may be able to connect to sewer system during curtailment. Here’s how

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SHELLEY — Building projects in parts of Bonneville and Bingham counties have been in limbo for some time due to a restriction placed on new connections to the sewer system. But there is hope in sight as some more sewer capacity has been created.

“We know there are some construction loans out there for homes, for individuals, and there are some lots pending sales. We want to get those moving, and I think we found a way to do that,” said Brian Powell, president of the Eastern Idaho Regional Sewer District (EIRSD).

In a meeting on Tuesday morning at Shelley City Hall, the EIRSD board decided that a curtailment on new sewer connections would still be in effect; however, the curtailment has been modified as more capacity to a sewer plant has been made available.

EIRSD meeting on Tuesday
Meeting at Shelley City Hall on Tuesday. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

“We created enough capacity for 500 more connections,” Powell told EastIdahoNews.com in an interview. “We were able to create some capacity at the plant through some enzyme injections and other efficiencies.”

Powell said part of the issue is the wastewater that’s coming into the plant is more concentrated. The enzyme injections help to eat away at the concentration so the water is not as heavy when it comes into the plant.

“There are some people out there that really need this right now. I heard from the last meeting, especially one lady that’s out $40,000, and we need to go forward and get going,” said Frank Lemmo, a board member with EIRSD.

How we got here

RELATED | Sewer district continues to curtail new connections due to capacity issues

The curtailment went into place on June 16 by the Eastern Idaho Regional Waste Water Authority (EIRWWA) due to capacity issues. The capacity issues created problems for people trying to build a home or work on projects without any sort of way to connect to the sewer system. Building permits were not issued at one point.

“Everyone in here is desperate to get going. … If I could write you a check and get my permit, I’m out of here,” said Chris Nelson of Shelley during the meeting.

The EIRWWA board at the time said it provides sewage treatment service to customers in its service area, which includes Shelley and portions of Ammon, Bonneville County, and Bingham County. EIRWWA’s Oxbow Treatment Plant is west of Shelley on the banks of the Snake River.

EIRSD has now taken over. It’s a new board with new members that’s been formed due to voters creating a sewer district during the election in May.

RELATED | Building permits put on hold after wastewater authority curtails connections

“I don’t want people to think that, ‘Oh well, that’s all the plant has available, I better hurry and start building my house.’ That’s not what we are saying. We are looking at historical connections in the past, we pulled what building permits have already been issued or are in the process, and we forecasted the next 18 months,” Powell told EastIdahoNews.com.

What’s next

Creating capacity comes to people right now instead of waiting for the next 18 months for an expansion project to finish for the sewer plant.

The first phase of the expansion has already begun and could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete.

Powell said the 500 connections that have been made available come with a cost because the plant will be run above and beyond what EIRSD is already doing.

With additional testing, electricity and other factors at the plant, costs would come out to $292,000 for the next 18 months. That, in turn, led the EIRSD board to come up with the idea of having a surcharge because there is not enough money in EIRSD’s budget.

“We take that $292,000, and we divide it by 500 (connections) that we need to create for capacity, and it comes out being an additional $584,” said Powell. “What we are thinking about doing is adding that ($584) as a surcharge. Because that is a new fee, we would need to have a public hearing.”

The public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20 at Shelley City Hall at 9 a.m.

“We are not saying you have to do it (connect now). You can wait 18 months after Phase 1 is complete and not pay the surcharge,” said Powell.

Powell said everyone could go and procure their sewer connection as they’ve done in the past. It is on a first-come, first serve basis.

“We will probably have some connections happen prior to that public hearing, and we can’t collect that surcharge until that public hearing,” said Powell. “Those that connect prior to that public hearing, they’ll need to pay that surcharge within 30 days after the public hearing, or they won’t be able to receive their final certificate of occupancy (if it passes).”

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