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New phase for water treatment

With much of the discussion involving the Ashland Wastewater — Treatment Plant also involving the proposed Billings Ranch Project, the — new permit the plant recently applied for has become lost in the shuffle.

Also involved is a change in the regulation involving — the temperature of the water.

"The permit itself has gone through the public hearing — stage," Public Works Director Paula Brown said. "We didn't get any comment, — 'we' meaning us and the Department of Environmental Quality. Now it goes — to the EQC (Environmental Quality Commission) for approval and we will — have a new permit."

The water temperature issue is — a mandate from the state to cool down the temperature of the water at — the plant that goes into Ashland Creek and Bear Creek to protect the fish.

"That is part of the permit," Brown said. "We have a five-year — window on the permit with DEQ. But during that five-year period, we have — to do three or four things. Among them, we have to monitor what our temperature — is through the wastewater process, look at options for reuse or different — ways to release the treated effluent."

If the city can reuse the treated effluent, that is much — better than getting rid of it, according to Brown.

For Ashland, the reuse would be some sort of irrigation.

"Whether it is farm irrigation and we work with Talent — Irrigation District, that is one option," Brown noted. "Or it could be — use in parks or on golf courses. That is where the proposal for the Billings — Ranch golf course came from, looking at water trades. The city council — is very highly motivated to keep water in the creeks."

That was the key element in 1996 decision keeping the — wastewater processing here in Ashland.

Cooling down the water in the treatment plant is not a — new concept. There will be three different temperatures, two summertime — limits and a wintertime limit. The temperatures should be 55 degrees in — the winter, the summer higher flow and lower flow limits should be 64 — and 68 degrees. Typically, the effluent in the city can be as high as — 72 degrees.

"So anyway you look at it, we are looking at four degrees," — Brown said. "Can we cool that? Probably. The water in the wintertime can — be cooler, which is good. The other piece we need to look at is 55 degrees — an absolute or does it depend on what is happening in the creek at that — time."

Brown said the city has been hearing this idea for some — time.

"We heard this back in 1995 when we started the process. — So it is not brand new news for us," she said. "To those of us in the — wastewater business on the engineering side of wastewater, cooling the — wastewater effluent is a horrible idea because of other environmental — impacts.

"Among those are how much energy it takes to cool water — and all those other pieces. So yes, we recognize that wastewater temperature — is warmer in a typical summer or wintertime than at creek flow. So the — question is, 'how much of a problem is that?'

The fish habitat is the main concern for the state. They — are concerned about water temperatures during the spawning, incubation — and trout rearing time frames.

"We will have to look at those impacts," Brown said. "And — then we will also have to look at the details of how much impact the waste — water has on Ashland Creek and Bear Creek. So cost-wise, cooling is an — option no one wants to look at. I think we would look at reuse before — we would look at cooling. And we could also look at the option of water — trading."

The fact no public comment was received does not surprise — Brown.

"Wastewater is an interesting thing, but it is only interesting — to me,' she said. "Most people, if they understand this is a fish impact, — there might be other questions."

The cost impact of the cooling to the city is unknown — because of water trades and the things the city can do at a lower cost.

"The worst-case would be to have to put in a cooling system — for that water just so we can keep it in the creek," Brown said. "I am — not sure we could ever do a cost benefit analysis to show that as a positive. — If the fish could speak, that might be a different story. We are looking — at how we can be better environmental stewards yet stay within something — that is reasonable."