Local residents and numerous stakeholders turned out last week in Lewiston for a groundbreaking celebration as the $17 million Lewiston Wastewater Collection, Treatment and Disposal Project gets underway.

It’s taken about 30 years to get to this point. Some of those present last week have been around long enough to remember all of the tumult Lewiston has been through as community members fought over how best to deal with 60-year-old wastewater collection/treatment systems cited by the State Water Board for numerous health and safety violations.

Systems of the Lewiston Park Mutual Water Company and the Trinity Dam Mobile Home Park were privately operated systems and therefore not eligible for state funding to fix the problems, and the Lewiston Community Services District Board of Directors was not willing to “turn on its water and sewer powers to accept the liability,” recalled former Trinity County Sup. Chris Erikson.

“But with a lot of turmoil, the CSD Board changed over time. Then Mel Deardorff got on the board and turned it around, having the foresight to take on sewer as well as water, and other board members were all convinced to join their systems together in order to get the state money,” Erikson said, adding “the community is really grateful and indebted to PACE Engineering, the state and federal agencies and the LCSD, and is now a community that’s on the verge of taking off.”

The project to build a new treatment plant is being funded by a Proposition 1 Small Community Grant awarded by the State Water Resources Control Board in the amount of $15,560,300 to consolidate the wastewater systems of the Lewiston Park Mutual Water Company and the Trinity Dam Mobile Home Park with the Lewiston Community Services District.

USDA Rural Development will also provide $1,233,000 in grant funding for the project.

The new system will address numerous health, safety and environmental violations at the three locations, including sewer overflow issues, by replacing deteriorating collection systems that are 60 years old. Together, the systems serve about 250 connections and the cost of replacing lateral lines is covered by the grant funding.

Construction bids were accepted by the LCSD board in June, awarding the contracts to the low bidders: T&S Construction of Sacramento for the wastewater collection portion of the job and RTA Construction of Redding for the treatment and disposal part of the new system.

Completion is anticipated late in 2021 or early 2022.

“This project is way over due and we are fortunate to get the funding. The state has worked with us after it all came to a head in 2014 when we made the headlines for the worst system ever seen, and now, five years later, we are breaking ground, but it’s a two-year project so there’s a lot more to go,” said Deardorff, adding “the state has really been behind us. This system, right above a wild and scenic river, really needed to be fixed.”

“It was dilapidated and really scary,” said geologist Roy O’Conner from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board who has worked on the project at that end for several years.

“It really took everybody pulling together, all stepping on this bus and trusting each other,” he said.

Lewiston resident Connor Nixon said the project will be “a lifesaver, creating a new life for Lewiston where people are purchasing houses.” Mary Nixon said the health and safety violations had the potential “of closing and condemning this community if not for the foresight of the LCSD and Mel. This community would have been lost.”

Project stakeholders including representatives from the State Water Resources Control Board, USDA Rural Development, Trinity County and the LCSD attended official groundbreaking ceremonies last Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the site of a new treatment unit being constructed to the east of the Lewiston Community Church near the intersection of Lewiston Road and Viola Road.

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