Building permits suspended after the Wastewater Authority cut connections

AMMAN — Building permits in some parts of Bonneville and Bingham counties are no longer issued due to a suspension imposed on new sewer connections by the Eastern Idaho Regional Wastewater Authority (EIRWWA).

Andrea Jardine, a real estate agent and builder, told that she owns a lot in the Brogan Creek subdivision of her personal home with her husband in Ammonites. She said she was about to get permits for the house when she was suddenly refused.

“Someone gave us an alert that the EIRWWA met on Thursday morning last week and decided there were no more (sewer) connections, and they didn’t really connect with anyone,” she said. “When we called the city of Ammon and said, ‘Okay, we’re ready to provide permits,’ they said, ‘Yes, we’re not issuing any more building permits anymore.'”

EIRWWA provides wastewater treatment service to customers in its service area, which includes the city of Chile and parts of the city of Ammon, Bonneville County and Bingham County. EIRWWA’s Oxbow treatment plant is located in western Chile on the banks of the Snake River.

On June 16, any new sewage system connections within EIRWWA service areas were suspended.

The decision to enact the moratorium came after the EIRWWA Board of Directors reviewed the data at the treatment plant and determined that the plant was nearly at its wastewater treatment capacity.

“To protect the integrity of the plant and maintain appropriate processing, the board has taken action to reduce the addition of further connections to the system that have not already been approved by the EIRWWA,” the board said in a statement Wednesday.

EIRWWA cited three factors in its decision.

One is the recent high growth and telecom demand in the EIRWWA service area. The statement stated that the strength of the wastewater entering the station has increased significantly.

“In previous years, approximately 100 to 300 connections were added to the EIRWWA each year. However, EIRWWA currently has approximately 500 approved connections, which will likely be added next year, with more being requested each month.

The second is what happened to the plant on February 14 of this year when it obtained an illegal discharge of sewage containing chemicals that affected the treatment process. Their treatment process is still at risk.

The third is the lack of funding to increase plant capacity. According to the statement, the EIRWWA completed a study in 2018 outlining what promotions should happen. The cost of the upgrade project is currently estimated at $35 million.

In its statement, EIRWWA said it was seeking funding to expand the plant.

Read the full EIRWWA statement.

In the meantime, builders seeking new permits within the EIRWWA coverage area may not be so lucky.

“With this moratorium, we are not in a position to issue any building permits…within the EIRWWA Sewer District until the moratorium is lifted,” Ammon’s planning and zoning manager Cindy Donovan said in an email. “We regret any inconvenience this may cause and hope that the EIRWWA Board of Directors will be able to make new contacts available in the near future.”

Micah Austin, Ammon’s city manager, said it’s been months, if not years, that the EIRWWA board has told cities that capacity at the sewage plant is filling up, and that if the capacity is not addressed, they will have to do so. Eventually cut back on new contacts.

“This is not the decision of the city of Ammon,” he said. “We’ve known this has been coming for a long time, and we’re advising developers to pay for their permits up front and avoid interruptions.”

He confirmed that this was the choice of EIRWWA.

“We’ve got a lot of people really upset with the city but I just want them to know that it’s not the city’s decision,” he said. “We want to work with them, and we want to help them through the process.”

According to EIRWWA, the contact curtailment does not apply to homes that have already received approval to contact EIRWWA and may already be under construction.

The EIRWWA will hold a public meeting on August 4 at 9 a.m. in Shelley City Hall rooms, and many within the EIRWWA service area hope that the moratorium will be lifted at that time.

“I hope to get the best result,” said Chile Mayor Stacy Pascoe. “We have three sub-divisions now operating in the city, so it will affect it. Some of them have already pre-purchased their connections so those connections are not affected at all. But if they have not previously purchased them, they will be affected.”

He said growth is booming in the region.

“We have a little over 700 single-family dwellings. Some are condominiums and some are townhouses, but just over 700. It will affect the city.

EIRWWA officials said they are actively evaluating short-term measures to improve plant operation and add temporary infrastructure to increase capacity until full upgrades can be completed.

As for Jardine, she now has an empty space sitting and waiting for a building permit. She has no idea how long she will wait.

“This could take years. This could take 18 to 24 months to fix this problem,” she said. “There are a lot of other builders out there who are way worse off situations than us. Fortunately we only have one plot but there are builders who have moved out of Utah and have 15 to 20 plots — some of them even more.”

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