Vale officials plead: Watch what you flush

The city’s wastewater system often falls prey to stoppages because residents flush the wrong items. City manager Todd Fuller wants to remind residents to be careful about what they flush. (The Enterprise/FILE).

VALE – Todd Fuller became the Vale city manager almost a year ago and while there have been many changes and unique challenges, one has remained a constant.

People keep flushing the wrong items down the toilet.

Like diapers. Bras. Socks. Top Ramen wrappers. Cleaning wipes. Tampons.

Fuller wants to remind city residents the city sewer system isn’t a landfill.

The issue has evolved into a real problem because when the wrong item is flushed it can clog up the city’s aging wastewater system.

Last week, said Fuller, city public works crews were in an alley off Holland Street to unplug a sewer drain. Fuller said clogged sewer lines are now a routine aspect of his job.

“Last week that was maybe the sixth or seventh time since I started we’ve had plugged sewer lines,” said Fuller.

When a sewer line is clogged the city deploys it vacuum truck which uses a hose that shoots high-pressure water to flush the line in about 20 minutes.

Yet sometimes the damage is far costlier, said Fuller.

A sewer line clog can potentially send wastewater into local homes, he said.

“No one knows it until you start getting sewer in your house,” said Fuller.

Fuller said an incident last year from a clogged sewer line sent sewage into a home and cost the city $70,000.

The city’s aged infrastructure doesn’t help, said Fuller.

“We have such old infrastructure under the ground it (a clog) can sometimes jeopardize your pipes. Some of them are over 100 years old,” said Fuller.

Fuller said some of the sewer system still consists of red brick.

Fuller said he hopes to get a federal or state grant to help upgrade the entire city sewer system.

Last year the city learned it would receive $1 million as part of a payout from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to renovate the Willowcreek lift station. The station is prone to breakdowns and its pumps often shut down after unwanted items – such as socks or underwear – make it through the pipes. City wastewater travels through Vale’s sewage system to lift stations, where it is pulled up by pumps and put into the city’s wastewater lagoon for treatment.

The $1 million allocation to Vale was the work of state Sen. Lynn Findley. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, federal money was funneled to Oregon where each state senator was allocated $4 million to support local projects.

The upgrade to the Willowcreek Lift Station will include screens to catch items before they trigger the station’s pumps to shut down.

Fuller said the city plans to put the Willowcreek Lift Station improvement project out to bid in the spring.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

Vale lift station project tops legislators list for federal funds

Vale acquires key funding to propel sewer infrastructure project

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