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Pilot Rock Mayor Virginia Carnes, right, gets ready to enjoy a piece of cake Thursday in celebration of breaking ground on the town’s new sewer lagoon project. Brad Baird, center, president of the engineering firm Anderson Perry & Associates, estimated the majority of the project could wrap up as soon as next May.

PILOT ROCK — Pilot Rock broke ground Thursday morning on its new sewer lagoons. Mayor Virginia Carnes said getting started has been a long time coming.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality warned the city five years ago when its aging sewer lagoons leaked into nearby Birch Creek. The city embarked on a strategy to build new lagoons away from the creek. Since then, the city raised sewer rates and secured a long-term, low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cover the cost of the $6 million project.

City Councilor Bob Deno said the lagoons are going on land Pilot Rock already owned, and that helped keep down costs.

The city contracted with the engineering firm Anderson Perry & Associates, La Grande, to help put together the whole picture. Company president Brad Baird was among the local and state officials who attended Thursday’s ground breaking ceremony. He said the project was impressive for a community the size of Pilot Rock.

“The city is to be commended on thinking long term,” he said to the gathering, “and coming up with the best solution.”

Baird added the new lagoons are away from the creek and should serve the city for decades. He also said the majority of construction should wrap up in May or June 2020.

The weather turned rainy as the gold shovels came out for obligatory photos. Afterward, officials and guests huddled beneath large tents to stay dry, have a cup of coffee and enjoy carrot cake.

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