After resolving a wastewater issue, site preparation efforts are under way

by: KEVIN SPERL - Construction has begun on the new St. Charles Hospital in Prineville.

Anyone driving down Combs Flat Road past the Ochoco Lumber property likely noticed heavy machinery lumbering about the premises.

What they saw was construction of the new $30 million St. Charles Hospital in Prineville, which has finally begun after waiting out the winter freeze and resolution of a potential wastewater issue.

“You will be seeing more and more equipment out there moving the dirt and preparing the site,” said Jeannie Gentry, Pioneer Memorial Hospital and St. Charles Madras CEO.

The prep work will continue until early next month, Gentry added, at which time work will begin on the foundation of the new hospital.

For a while, the future of the new hospital was not as settled. When the City of Prineville began efforts to extend sewer service to the site, they ran into a problem that threatened to substantially raise the cost of the project.

“As we began to design that, we knew we would have to bore underneath the (Ochoco) Creek and bore underneath the state highway,” said City Engineer Eric Klann.

While digging test pits for the sewer line project, they ran into a groundwater contamination issue near the B&S Lumber site. Klann said the water was very hot and very high in hydrocarbons.

“It is a known groundwater contamination site,” he said. “DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) is working on it. We just weren’t aware the DEQ was working on anything until we dug our test pit. We thought we had actually broken a hydraulic hose, there were so many fumes coming off of it.”

Klann said that St. Charles initially wanted to install a pump station, so that they could keep the sewer line at a shallower depth and pump the wastewater back toward the treatment plant west of town.

While it would have solved the immediate problem, it presented a longer-term issue for the city. Klann explained that all wastewater east of that location, including future development, would have to be pumped. Since pumping stations can cost a lot of money to maintain, the city was looking at a substantial expense if they went that route.

“We worked with the hospital and their engineers and got them to look at some alternative methods to use gravity,” Klann said. “We will be able to do a gravity sewer collection system through there.”

He explained that they will run a shallow sewer line, which helps them avoid the contaminated groundwater deeper down, and they will utilize inverted siphons to drop under Ochoco Creek and Ochoco Irrigation District canal.

In addition to adding the sewer line, the city will extend a water line south 1,700 feet under Combs Flat Road, and add left turn pockets to the road where it intersects with Third Street.

Meanwhile, St. Charles will make its own infrastructure improvements. Gentry said they will complete an east-west road that crosses the entire property and build another north-south road that connects it to Third Street.

Now that the wastewater issue is resolved and the ground has thawed, Gentry is eagerly awaiting completion of the new hospital. While no exact finish date has been set, builders anticipate the project taking about 18 months, and St. Charles is aiming for a fall 2015 opening.

“We are really excited,” she said.

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