Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Jayson Jacoby


City Manager Mike Kee said Tuesday that he believes the city can have an ultraviolet light water treatment plant operating one year from now.

A UV plant is the least expensive option for protecting the city's water against cryptosporidium.

The estimated cost, according to a 2009 report from the city's engineering firm, was $2.3 million.

Crypto is the microscopic parasite that contaminated the city's water earlier this summer, resulting in an outbreak in which hundreds of residents became ill with diarrhea, stomach cramps and other symptoms.

City, state and federal officials are still trying to figure out how, when and where crypto got into the city's water.

The city's deadline to install a treatment system that's effective against crypto is Oct. 1, 2016, but Kee said that after the crypto outbreak that date is no longer reasonable.

Several things need to happen for the city to meet the 12-month goal, Kee said.

First, the city will likely need to tap the $1.7 million in unappropriated money from its water utility fund, which is in effect that fund's savings account, Kee said.

Although cities typically are not allowed to spend that money, since the expenditure isn't included in the budget for the fiscal year that started July 1, Kee said he believes the city, due to the crypto outbreak, qualifies for an exemption under a state law dealing with "community calamaties."

The city would, however, have to write a supplemental budget, which requires City Council approval.

This year's budget also includes $230,000 in authorized spending (no supplemental budget required) on the UV project.

Kee said the city could use that money to construct a foundation for the UV plant, which will be built near the covered reservoirs on the hill above Indiana Avenue at the southwest corner of town.

"We have stakes driven in the ground up there," he said.

The company that will build the UV system estimates that work will take about six months, Kee said.

"They have the (specifications)," he said.

Kee said he hopes to have a proposal to take to the City Council, whether related to the supplemental budget or another aspect of the UV project, by the Council's Sept. 24 meeting.

"We need to do everything we can," Kee said. "Every week we've got to be doing something toward this (project)."