Water plant process continues to disrupt residents

by: VERN UYETAKE - Construction is allowed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the water treatment plant.It is perfectly silent at 7 a.m. Nov. 1 on Mapleton Drive in West Linn. No cars idling in driveways, no dogs barking, not even a bird chirping.

Then, at 7:14 a.m. there is a growing rumble heading down the road. The first of a parade of dump trucks has arrived. Every day for nearly three years, there will be ongoing construction on Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive as Lake Oswego reconstructs its water treatment plant and installs a new pipeline running from the river, under Mary S. Young State Park, down Highway 43 and into Lake Oswego.

West Linn residents have long fought the water treatment plant project, expressing concerns of noise, safety, traffic and loss of property value. Now that construction is in full swing, the Tidings wanted to see how much the project is affecting its neighbors.

We spent the entire day Nov. 1 in a house on Mapleton Drive directly across from the water treatment plant. We worked out of the home, we walked the streets — up Mapleton, across Old River Road and down Kenthorpe Way and back again — we drove in an out of the neighborhood and stayed until construction shut down for the VERN UYETAKE - Looking through the window of a home on Mapleton Drive one can watch, hear and feel the buzzing construction at the water treatment plant.

The project

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant at 4260 Kenthorpe Way since 1968. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego is expanding the plant and running a new pipeline to address the future water needs of both cities. The project is expected to take 28 months.

The plant, which will hold up to 2 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons each day, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

Along with a new plant, the project involves the installation of a 4-foot-diameter pipeline from the Clackamas River through West Linn and into Lake Oswego. The pipeline, which will be broken into four construction phases, will extend 1.9 miles in West Linn, crossing though both residential and commercial areas.

Construction started this summer in Gladstone at the river intake pump station, which is located along the southerly bank of the Clackamas River. And construction at the facility in West Linn began at the end of September despite active appeals that have not yet been settled.

During the week of Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, construction at the facility included installing dewatering systems for the clearwell, excavating and installing pipe trenches and installing some temporary power for the dewatering system.

The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) has permission to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. During construction hours dump trucks come about every five minutes. An excavator works in the cavernous hole of the clearwell, digging deeper and deeper. Dump trucks are filled with the dirt and haul it away, traveling along Highway 43.

The roads

Both Mapleton Drive and Kenthorpe Way are narrow residential streets. There are no shoulders and no sidewalks. The houses along the roads vary in age from the 1940s to relatively new construction. The only traffic entering and leaving the neighborhood comes from residents — and construction vehicles.

On the aging streets, the construction vehicles are noticeably heard and seem to take over the roads, which are frequented by kids on bikes, dog walkers and families.

Prior to construction starting, LOT implemented a hotline for people to call if they have questions, concerns or complaints about the water treatment plant and pipeline projects. Between April and Nov. 4, the hotline recorded more than 100 calls.

Of those calls, the vast majority are complaints about the dump trucks, their drivers and the noise and vibrations caused by the construction.

Walking along Mapleton and Kenthorpe during the late morning Nov. 1, two dump trucks lumbered past us slowly and safely, even when a group of three teens was walking side by side on Kenthorpe. The most dangerous moment involved a sedan driven by an elderly woman who refused to make way for us.

Just a few weeks ago a dump truck had to lock up its breaks at the corner of Old River Road and Cedaroak Drive to avoid a woman in a motorized wheelchair. The sudden stop caused the already “alligatored” road to break up. Calls started to flood in about the condition of the road and who is going to fix it.

A caller to the hotline on Nov. 5 said, “Let’s also talk about the giant pothole on Old River and Cedaroak. It’s now so large that it is breaking apart the oncoming travel lane as well. Is this going to be here for four years or just until it’s large enough to swallow a car?”

Though the road is in West Linn and technically the city’s responsibility, the city’s efforts at a temporary fix were short-lived. LOT offered to repair it. The repaving was slated to take place this week, weather VERN UYETAKE - Dump trucks are repeatedly filled with dirt during the excavation process of the digging the clear well at the water treatment plant.

The noise

Using a decibel reader iPhone application, the Tidings measured noise levels throughout the day. Prior to the first truck coming in the morning, the ambient noise of the house measured 35 decibels, the sound of the average quiet whisper, according to the app. When the first truck rolled by, the noise level went to 40 decibels, the sound of an average quiet home. The sound of the keyboard clicking as this was being written caused levels to jump to 60 decibels, still within the range of an average quiet home.

Outside the home, which is in full view of the plant, the noise was a bit louder, reaching about 50 decibels. The average street noise along Highway 43 at Mapleton ranged from 80 to 90 decibels. The children playing outside at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church measured between 80 and 90 decibels.

Really, the noise from the trucks sounded comparable to average street traffic for those living in more urban areas. However, that is not what the residents of Mapleton and Kenthorpe bought into when they moved to the area. They are accustomed to the near silence of their quiet neighborhood.

Over the course of the day, noise levels ebbed and waned. There was a constant drone of the excavator, tractor noise and the honk of the backup beepers. At times levels would rise, the windows would rattle and decorations on the walls would vibrate. Around midmorning chainsaw work started up. There were occasional startling and disruptive loud bangs throughout the day. A homeowner on Mapleton commented that it was a quiet day at the plant.

As for the noise, LOT Communications Director Jane Heisler said LOT is working with neighbors and contractors to keep the levels to a minimum. They changed the sound of the backup beepers to ambient-sensing beepers, which emit a buzzing sound just a little louder than the background noise, compared to the standard loud beeping of large vehicles.

She also said when the trucks start hauling in gravel, they will use wood to help dampen the noise of the gravel being poured down a metal slide.

“We are trying to be very conscious,” Heisler said.

The vibrations

Residents are also concerned the construction vibrations will harm the foundations of their homes.

In response, LOT offered to take vibration assessments at any home interested. Two residents, both on Kenthorpe, took up the offer. The assessments were conducted over the course of seven days in September at two residences as well as at the plant.

According to GeoDesign Inc., the firm conducting the assessments, the ground vibrations were measured along three perpendicular axes. There is an industry standard stating thresholds before damage occurs to a home from vibrations. The vibrations are plotted on a waveform and are measured by its dips and peaks. For newer homes with drywall, the threshold is 0.75 inch per second; for older homes with plaster walls, the threshold is 0.5 inch per second. More stringent guidelines for thresholds are 0.3 inch per second for older homes and 0.5 inch per second for new structures.

The results from the assessments showed maximum vibrations from the construction site ranged from 0.030 to 0.250 inch per second. The maximum vibration data from the two homes ranged from 0.015 to 0.055 inch per second, approximately one-tenth or less of the damage threshold set by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, according to GeoDesign.

Though pleased with the vibration study results, Heisler acknowledged residents are annoyed with the vibrations.

On Sept. 12, a caller to the hotline reported feeling his house move “like it was an earthquake shock.” He was concerned his house may fall down. On Sept. 20, a caller reported the noise and vibrations were causing a child who has seizures periodically and environmental sensitivities “great discomfort.” On Oct. 24, a woman reported feeling her house vibrate and shake all day and said she felt the “quality of life is gone.”

LOT has since purchased two vibration monitors and has them collecting data all the time at the facility. Heisler said the monitors can also be moved to people’s homes if requested.

The complaints

Residents are also making calls to West Linn City Hall, to city councilors and to the police department.

“There’s a bunch of unhappy people down there by the water treatment plant,” Sgt. Dave Kempas said. Residents have reported trucks speeding, reckless driving and drivers using their cellphones. However, Officer Brad Moyle patrols the streets near the plant four or five times a week and has found little to cite.

“It’s pretty quiet,” Moyle said. “The only stops I’ve made were people who live on the street or people visiting people living on the street.”

The property values

As for the concern over property values on Mapleton and Kenthorpe, there are three properties for sale on Mapleton near the plant. One sold in one day and currently has the sale pending at $675,000. The other was listed in mid-October and is listed at $289,000.

There is also an undeveloped plot on Mapleton owned by Decosta Properties. John Decosta said, “I have been getting many calls on my land on Mapleton. The callers seem excited about the new landscaping that will be installed at the water plant site. I have not agreed to sell our land because the value is increasing dramatically and will probably continue upward in the next two years.”

The end of the day

Back at the home on Mapleton, it is now 4:15 p.m., and all is quiet. Looking out the living room window, construction has stopped, workers have left and the quiet resumes — until 7 VERN UYETAKE
 - Residents along Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive have actively fought the water plant project, and many have signs similar to this one posted in their yards.

Lori Hall can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 103. Follow her on Twitter, @lorihall7.

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