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Cornelius aquifer project heads into Phase 2

Last week, Cornelius City Council members unanimously authorized City Manager Rob Drake to finalize a contract with the Portland engineering firm of CH2M Hill that will move the city’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project forward to the design and construction management stage.

Earlier this year, CH2M Hill successfully drilled a test well on a lot north of Water Park located on Barlow St., completing Phase 1. According to Drake, preliminary testing indicated the geology under the park could store 50 to 90 million gallons of drinking water.

That’s important to Cornelius, where its current, above-ground water-storage tank holds only 1.5 million gallons, forcing the city to buy water from Hillsboro (its supplier) during the dry summer months, when prices are high because demand is so heavy and water is more scarce. This project will allow the city to buy and store water at a much lower cost during the winter months, when heavy rainfall brings prices down.

The estimated cost of Phase 2 is nearly $850,000, and is part of a $2,934,000 grant from the Oregon Infrastructure Authority awarded to the city in 2013. This phase will involve design, oversight and construction of a pump station for the ASR well; short-term tests of the well to determine its injection and withdrawal rates; getting groundwater rights from the Oregon Water Resources Department; and providing operations and maintenance resources so the city can operate the well. All Phase 2 work is covered by the grant except the $50,000 cost to update the city’s Water System Master Plan, which will be paid by the city’s Water Fund.

Phase 2 is expected to be complete by Spring 2016. Phase 3 will include the design and fabrication of new equipment that will allow the city to gather, analyze and monitor data on how the system is working.

The city will finally be able to start storing water in its new underground aquifer during the winter of 2017, Drake said. “It’s during these rainy months that water in excess of the city’s normal usage is available.”

Cornelius residents would then get their first taste of less expensive, aquifer-stored water in the summer of 2017.