Echo agrees to wastewater solution with Stanfield

The city of Echo has opted to contract with Stanfield to dispose of its recycled water rather than using eminent domain to take over a piece of Michael Yunker's property to build a recycled water plant.

The Echo City Council has approved an agreement to send its recycled water to Stanfield instead of Michael Yunker’s ranch.

Yunker had been preparing for a court battle after being notified last December the city was considering using eminent domain to carve out a 10-acre piece of his ranch to deposit the city’s recycled water as part of a wastewater system upgrade. Instead, the city will begin searching for funding to pipe the water into the city of Stanfield’s system.

Yunker said he was “delighted” that the city had found a solution that worked for everyone.

“Man, that’s good news,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m one happy camper.”

Stanfield’s city council still has to vote to approve the agreement, but it was Stanfield councilor Jason Sperr who came to an Echo City Council meeting earlier in the year to state Stanfield’s willingness to take the treated water if the numbers penciled out for both cities. He said Stanfield had the capacity to handle the extra water and still have room to grow.

Echo’s recycled water is currently emptied into the Umatilla River after treatment, but does not meet Department of Environmental Quality standards for biological oxygen demand. The city is on its 12th year and sixth extension of a mutual agreement to allow the practice to continue as it searches for solutions, but the state has warned that it will not continue extending the agreement indefinitely, and failure to extend the agreement would result in significant fines for Echo.

City Manager Diane Berry said Echo’s next step after Stanfield formally signs off on the agreement is to seek grants and loans to build a pipeline to a sewer manhole near the Pilot Travel Center in Stanfield and to fund “the other required and needed improvements.”

Berry said the option of sending wastewater to Stanfield had been rejected years ago because at the time the volume of water was too cost-prohibitive. However, new evaporation fountain technology that has since become readily available, which Echo plans to incorporate into its upgrade, will greatly reduce the volume. She said the city is also giving Echo a reduced price because it will only be sending treated water, not untreated sewage, making the deal “possible and affordable.”

According to the agreement — which could end up being modified if the Stanfield City Council has objections — Echo is expected to discharge no more than 60,000 gallons per day, with 75 percent of the discharge taking place between Nov. 1 and May 1. The city will pay $2.25 per thousand gallons and the deal will be subject to renegotiation of Stanfield reaches more than 85 percent of its sewer system capacity.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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