The recent signing of agreements by the Umatilla County Commission to complete the funding of a wastewater collection system for Rieth that will solve problems associated with its failing septic systems calls for a note of appreciation to everyone involved.

The agreements, which secure $730,000 in grant funding including a $336,000 low-interest Clean Water Revolving Fund loan, and allows residents of Rieth to connect to Pendleton's wastewater treatment plant, epitomizes the cooperation between state and local government necessary to make a project of this nature a reality.

The Rieth Sewer and Water Board, Umatilla County Commissioners (spearheaded by Dennis Doherty), Melisa Drugge with the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation, and Bob Patterson and Larry Lehman of Pendleton particularly deserve praise for the pivotal roles they played.

Those representing the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department and DEQ also deserve praise for their considerable, and effective, endeavors.

The willingness of Rieth residents was a key, of course, to making the tasks of everyone involved worth the effort.

Small lot sizes, and shallow, rocky, soil at many locations in Rieth have made on-site septic repairs or replacement extraordinarily challenging and expensive.

The most feasible and practical solution is to send their wastewater to Pendleton for treatment. Consequently, this project will decommission existing septic systems, construct a pump station, and install sewers.

Construction is likely to begin in October 2005. In September of 2006, we should see the final connections made to city sewer and the old septic systems decommissioned.

When completed, 72 individual sewer connections and one collection main will serve Rieth's approximately 150 residents.

While septic deficiencies currently limit development in the community, more expedient construction of new buildings and expansion of homes will be possible once the new system is operational. At the same time, bacterial levels in the Umatilla River should recline, reducing the health risk to those who use the river and supporting state water quality goals for the Umatilla Basin TMDL.

The patient and considerate steps taken by everyone to secure safe and compliant wastewater and water treatment for Rieth is significant and certainly worthy of recognition.

Joni Hammond


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