A neighborhood in southeast Bend has begun converting from septic to sewer systems as part of the city’s Septic to Sewer Project. With the rapid expansion of the city, more neighborhoods are expected to apply for the conversion program.
Project managers say the conversion enables property owners to stop maintaining aging septic systems. Also, sewer service generally is considered more environmentally friendly.
The project, which took effect in February, is aimed at getting homes hooked up to the city’s sewer lines. The problem is now how much homeowners are willing to pay.
The Kings Forest area will have the public part of sewer lines installed next summer.
NewsChannel 21 spoke with Lindsey Cromsigt, the project engineer for the Septic to Sewer Project, at City Hall Tuesday.
Cromsigt says going through the program is voluntary, unless homeowners are faced with at least one of three situations.
First, if the property owner on septic wants to do any sort of development that meets the city’s minimum development standards, they would be required to connect to public sewer.
Second, if the property owner’s septic fails or needs repair, and a city sewer line has reached the property, they would be required to connect to public sewer. The third situation is if an applicant asks the city to install sewer service, property owners would be required to connect within two years from when the sewer main becomes active on their street.
“Success looks like having multiple neighborhoods citywide apply for the project and (the city) ultimately installing sewer on their street and allowing them to decommission aging septic systems and to connect to public sewer,” Cromsigt says.
Cromsigt says the installation of the sewer main and stub outs to private properties is covered by the city through ratepayer increases. The private property owner who connects to public sewer will have to pay a system development charge, as well as a connection fee.
Beth Larsen was one of the first homeowners to undergo the conversion.
“My septic was failing, so I didn’t really have a choice,” Larsen says. “I had to either replace the septic or hook up to the sewer.”
She knew there would be a financial burden involved, so she organized about 20 neighbors to connect at the same time, so they could hire a contractor and save more money.
During a work session at Wednesday’s city council meeting, city councilors discussed keeping a rule requiring properties on failing septic systems within 300 feet of city sewer to hook up to it. They also talked about reviewing hardships due to topography.
Larsen told NewsChannel the loud drilling near her property during the septic to sewer conversion lasted three to four hours a day. She said conditions vary for property owners, depending on how much rock lies beneath their property.
“We were the first phase of this whole project, and there were a lot of bumps in the road,” Larsen says. “I think the city’s learned a lot from our experience, and I think going forward in the next phases, it’s going to be a lot smoother for homeowners.”
The specific costs related to the conversion from septic to sewer can be found on the city of Bend website at https://www.bendoregon.gov/city-projects/septic-to-sewer-conversion-program.