Garibaldi receives federal award for recent clean water project

Melanie Olson, of Business Oregon; Blake Lettenmaier, Garibaldi city engineer; John O’Leary, Garibaldi City Manager and Mayor Suzanne McCarthy.

By Jordan Wolfe

The citizens of the Watseco-Barview water district finally have clean water to drink – without carcinogens – and the City of Garibaldi has received a federal award for it.
On March 1, Anthony Barber, Environmental Protection Agency’s Oregon Operations Office Director, presented the city with a 2017 EPA Region 10 WATERS award – one of three given in the state of Oregon.
“Two things stood out: it was on time and under-budget,” Barber said. “And they got it done with minimal impact on the environment or customers.”
The six-month, $1.2 million project returned the water system to compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act by creating an intertie extending Garibaldi’s public water supply line to the two neighboring communities, according to Barber. The city initially received a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan of $1.86 million – half of which will be forgiven.
“It was in non-compliance for many, many years,” Blake Lettenmaier, city engineer, said. “The water had trihalomethanes – a carcinogen – levels above what Oregon Health Authority allows.”
Through the Garibaldi and Watseco-Barview Waterline Intertie Project, Lettenmaier said the old wells with the carcinogens were cut off and filled with grout.
“And laid to rest forever,” he said.
The new waterline runs along the railroad tracks on Tenth Street to Terwilliger View Heights near Barview, according to Lettenmaier,
“When they first talked about this and running it down the railroad tracks I thought ‘How are they going to do that? There’s no room and the Bay is right there,” Mayor Suzanne McCarthy said, adding it is the biggest award the City of Garibaldi has received in her 10 years as mayor.
Lettenmaier said the Watseco-Barview water board members were easy to work with, as well as the City of Garibaldi and the Infrastructure Finance Authority.
“I’ve heard of win-win projects before, but this was a win-win-win.” Blake Lettenmaier, city engineer, said, “You hear it a lot, but this was a true win for everyone and that is sort of rare.”
The project, decades in the making, was awarded not only for bringing drinking water into compliance, but meeting one or more of the elements of the WATERS acronym, according to Barber (Well-planned, Affordable, Transferable to other communities, provide benefits for water or energy Efficiency, Resiliency and Sustainability).
The documenting process was very detailed and even includes a very well-made video, according to Lettenmaier.
“When other communities think about taking on a project like this, they can proceed with greater confidence they can make it happen,” Barber said.
Even with an award from the EPA, Lettenmaier remains humble.
“It was an internal pride and I kept it to myself,” he said, “But this is such a big award – a federal award – for it to go to a town of 700 people. I’m just so happy the people of Watseco-Barview have clean water to drink. That’s the important part.”