Skip to Content

Tumalo community sewer system sought, to move town off risky septic systems

(Updated: adding video, comments from resident and Des. Co. commissioner)

Group of Tumalo residents asking Deschutes County to OK sewer system

TUMALO, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Situated between the Deschutes River and sparkling mountain views, Tumalo has become a popular spot for visitors to stop, shop and grab a bite along Highway 20, while many residents enjoy the rural feel of the community.

While the small town has seen lots of growth over the past few years, the ground beneath it tells a different, more worrisome story.

Almost all of Tumalo relies on septic tanks, most of which were built in the 1970s or earlier.

Jim Crouch, owner of Heritage Brand, says the septic systems are keeping the town from growing.

"Without a sewer system or a community sewer system for Tumalo, it just can't really grow," Crouch told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday. "It's very stifled as of right now."

Septic systems require annual maintenance, limit the amount of land you can build on due to drain fields, and threaten nearby waterways.

Crouch and a few other Tumalo business owners have proposed a new community sewer system be built in the area.

He says one of the reasons he loves Tumalo is because it has a small-town feel, and most of the businesses are within walking distance from one another.

"We don't want to have commercial buildings that are 50 or 150 feet apart, just so we can fit septic systems between them," Crouch said. "That doesn't look like a downtown area. That looks like a ghost town."

So far, the group has received support from Deschutes County commissioners.

Commissioner Tony DeBone told NewsChannel 21 he's looking forward to supporting the community in this endeavor.

"If this is the will of the community, let's go forward and do it, because it is a choice of the people and the property owners that live there," DeBone said.

Right now, the county is working on a feasibility plan to analyze all potential angles of the project, along with the cost.

Commissioner DeBone says the county could have an estimate by the end of the month.

Author Profile Photo

Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



  1. Three words: Sewer Hook-up Fees. I believe if you are within 300’ of a sewer system and your septic system fails, you are legally required to connect to that sewer system, paying whatever rate the provider has set.

  2. The water table in Tumalo is quite shallow. The pizza place on Cook Ave., maybe Raganellis or something like that could not get approval for a septic system. They installed a holding tank that required frequent pumping. A sewer system is needed in the community.

  3. Tumalo DOES have water problems, but VERY few locals (except for people who have moved here in maybe the last 10 years or so) want our tiny community to become a TOWN. We do NOT WANT it to become a “mini-Bend” and there is NO WAY our Tumalo looks or feels like a “ghost town.” If the newer wealthy folks want to PAY for all of the “old timers” in little Tumalo to get a sewer system; more power to them, but do NOT saddle locals with BILLS and payments that they can’t afford.

  4. I grew up in a tiny town and moved to this tiny town because it’s tiny.

    If septic is limiting development in Tumalo, great!

    Sewer systems are far from perfect; tons of sewage was discharged from sewers into the Willamette in Portland for 11 hours this weekend. More growth in Tumalo equals more sewage and a higher risk of that sewage entering the Deschutes.

  5. Let me get this straight. You move to Tumalo because you like the small town. Now you want to change it. Brilliant. Why didn’t you just stay in California?

      1. If the community is already “great” in everyone’s eyes why would you want to change that by adding more of anything? This community doesn’t need to grow because bend is 5 miles up the road.

    1. Orred, who are you responding to? Me? If so, I don’t want to change Tumalo and do not think a sewer system is needed and would lead to more growth. I don’t want that. I’m from Oregon, not that it’s relevant.

  6. I wonder what the actual resident’s think of this idea? This article only addresses the business owners and well they are about growing and profit. I see zero reason to make tumalo grow. They are about 5 miles from bend city limits why would anyone that lives there want to destroy their community with unnecessary growth? Oh a developer wants to build homes 5′ frome each other.

  7. Tumalo can form a sewer district, just as many of the subdivisions in the Tumalo and Deschutes have already done and operated successfully for decades. The district can seek grants, float a bond and begin the process. It will reasonably have the affect of significantly increase the value of property in Tumalo and increase commerce. They will need to build their own sewer treatment plant and that will take years of regulatory wrangling. There is no foreseeable way to link into the City of Bend’s system, for the present uncommitted capacity of the City’s system is already dedicated to the City’s growth. Bottom line, let the residence of Tumalo decide if they want to pay the extra cost of a treatment plant, or continue as someone above mentioned, by install sewer tanks and pump them.

  8. “Septic systems require annual maintenance,” – not necessarily true statement but easy to use when you are trying to sell the project. With a septic you just need to watch what you flush and absolutely no garbage disposal. Been on one almost all my life in various homes. They need pumped about every 5 – 8 years.

Leave a Reply

Skip to content