A 70-year-old water treatment plant seeks full renovation

ASHLAND, Ore.–  Ashland’s water treatment plant has been around for 70 years. In that time it’s received a couple upgrades but workers say it’s current location could be a problem in the future. Now the city is considering whether to build a completely new facility or continue upgrading the old one.

“We could go through, on a normal year, around a billion gallons a year,” said Greg Hunter, a supervisor for the plant.

It may be old but for decades, Ashland’s water treatment plant has been producing enormous amounts of drinking water in southern Oregon.

Over time however, plant workers say it’s become more vulnerable to disasters.

“Because of the steep canyon sides here, a fire would be much hotter here and much more accelerated by the shape of the canyon,” said Hunter. “The earthquake potential of this plant is based on the construction from 1949.”

Another concern – the plant sits on top of Ashland Creek, right in the path of floods or if the dam were to break.

“As you see here, we’re basically in the creek,” said Hunter, pointing to the facility. “The creek runs on both sides of the plant and it has overflowed it’s banks on occasion.”

Hunter remembers an exact time when that happened in 1964.

“We’ve had water going from that edge to that edge in the ’64 flood,” he said.

That’s why employees say a new water treatment plant is needed. As a possible solution, Ashland Public Works is considering moving the plant downstream.

“The new plant is located about a half a mile downstream from this plant and a little bit off away from the creek,” said Hunter. “So essentially it is out of the flood plane.”

While there are still many steps to be taken before a new plant is built, a new upgraded plant sounds like a good idea to some.

“A water treatment plant is a signature of the community that it serves and so the plant that will be built should be representative of that,” said Hunter.

If a new plant were to be built, officials say Ashland residents wouldn’t need to cover anymore costs. It’s unclear when the city council will meet to vote on the plan but if it is approved, the new plant is expected to be complete in two to three years.

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