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Financial estimates frame discussion about repurposing of lagoon

Market analysis estimates more than $56 million net value using wastewater lagoon as disposal facility


Details about how St. Helens could benefit financially from repurposing the city’s secondary wastewater lagoon emerged this week with the release of a market analysis of the potential project.

Ted Wall, a consultant from Maul Foster Alongi, an environmental consulting agency contracted by St. Helens for waterfront redevelopment planning, completed the market analysis and presented the findings to the St. Helens City Council during a work session Wednesday, July 20.

The study offered three options for filling the city’s secondary wastewater lagoon, including options for a partial or complete fill.

The 215-million-gallon lagoon would take 4 million cubic yards of solid material to fill it. The city could, however, portion off part of the lagoon, which would require less fill, or roughly 2.2 millions

cubic yards, the analysis indicates.

The drawback of filling the lagoon to a lower capacity is that it would result in a lower net value for the project, meaning the city would be receiving less income over a 15-year project period, according to the analysis. Filling the lagoon completely results in a higher net value, but

also assumes the larger volume of material would be available.

Net value estimates of the project range from $56 million to $137 million, the report also states.

If the project moves forward, the city expects to receive fill materials from three separate locations, including 1.7 million cubic yards of fill from an Environmental Protection Agency superfund site cleanup in the Portland Harbor; 2.1 million cubic yards of fill from channel deepening projects in the Lower Willamette; and 600,000 cubic yards from brownfield sites.

As a marketing strategy, Wall explained that a disposal facility could be attractive to businesses because the site would be accessible by barge, railroad and truck, something no other facilities in the state currently offer.

If the city were to pursue creating a confined disposal facility, or CDF, in the wastewater lagoon, staff would be looking at least a 10- to 12-year project timeline to begin, not including the time it would take to obtain a solid waste permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Equailty.

The EPA Portland Harbor cleanup is not expected to be underway until 2022.

City staff is expected to submit a written comment in favor of the project and the city’s desire to potentially build a facility that would accommodate the goals of the cleanup project.