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FAQ | Rates

We're Investing in Your Community
Investments in local infrastructure support the health, sustainability, and prosperity of our community. OLWS is taking steps to update its aging wastewater collections system and wastewater treatment plant to continue to provide you with safe and reliable service today and for years to come. This isn’t an issue only facing OLWS, utilities nationwide are dealing with aging infrastructure, as much of the modern infrastructure that serves our communities is 60+ years old.

Annually, OLWS treats 1.5 billion gallons of wastewater providing a vital public health service to the community. OLWS serves the communities of Oak Grove, Jennings Lodge, and portions of the adjacent municipalities of Milwaukie and Gladstone. It is comprised of a collections system (eg. manholes, service laterals, wastewater pipes, pump stations, lift stations and force mains) that conveys raw wastewater from customers’ homes and businesses to the OLWS treatment plant. OLWS’ wastewater treatment plant currently includes primary and secondary level treatment. Primary level treatment is provided by screens and a grit chamber to remove large solids. Secondary level treatment removes organic matter through the activated sludge process. The treated wastewater is then disinfected before it is discharged into the Willamette River.

Needed Upgrades

What upgrades are needed now? 

Aging infrastructure (i.e. pipes), new environmental regulations, climate changes, and a commitment to resilient and reliable infrastructure have all prompted OLWS to invest in vital upgrades.

Wastewater Treatment Plant. Originally built in 1960 and significantly upgraded in 2012- now over 10 years later the OLWS’ wastewater treatment plant can no longer reliably meet new discharge requirements to the Willamette River set by DEQ in 2022. Non-compliance with environmental regulations can result in costly fines and negatively impact water quality in the Willamette River and the surrounding watershed. To remedy this, a new tertiary treatment level is needed to treat wastewater to a higher standard.

Collections System. Studies show some sites in the collections system have become vulnerable to inflow and infiltration. Inflow and infiltration describe when rainwater and groundwater enter the collections system piping, particularly during strong storm events. The additional water can exceed the capacity within the collections system piping, the lift stations, and the treatment system, occasionally leading to sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), for which OLWS can incur costly fines from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Several SSOs have occurred in the past year and have drawn the attention of DEQ. If OLWS does not address the infiltration and inflow that lead to SSOs, DEQ could legally mandate that OLWS make repairs on a much more aggressive timeline than what is now proposed. This would limit OLWS’ autonomy to plan the work and would likely increase costs. Acting now will allow OLWS to sequence the work to optimize costs, demonstrate its commitment to meeting DEQ standards, and reduce the risk of SSOs.

What are the solutions? 

Projects that require the most immediate attention are those to address inflow and infiltration (and subsequent risk of SSO) and non-compliance at the wastewater treatment plant.

To address inflow and infiltration in the collections system, OLWS will rehabilitate the pipelines that are in the worst condition through cured in-place pipe lining or pipe bursting to reduce inflow and infiltration, and thus, reduce the risk of SSOs. Temporary flow meters will be installed to measure the efficacy of the rehabilitation work at reducing inflow and infiltration. Proactively addressing inflow and infiltration that can cause SSOs will reduce the risk of intervention and fines from DEQ.

To address vulnerabilities related to the wastewater treatment plant—primarily its inability to reliably meet current and potential future state and local discharge requirements—a new tertiary filtration process will be built. This facility will be constructed within the wastewater treatment facility property and treat water to a higher standard to meet current discharge requirements.

Why make this infrastructure investment now? 

Investing in our infrastructure today will help avoid larger and more costly repairs in the future. It also supports reliable and resilient service for OLWS customers for the next generation. Addressing vulnerabilities now offers many benefits to OLWS and its customers:

  • Promotes continued reliable and resilient wastewater service
  • Greatly reduces risk of sanitary sewer overflows
  • Avoids costly fines for non-compliance with environmental policies
  •  Avoids potential mandates from DEQ that would limit OLWS’ ability to determine its own budget and schedule related to these capital improvements
  • Upholds OLWS’ commitment to keep streams and rivers clean

Thirty wastewater treatment projects and twenty collections system projects have been identified through the year 2052. While some of these projects are urgent and must be addressed in the next 5-10 years, others can and will be deferred to a later date to best manage OLWS’ financial resources. 

How will projects be funded? 

The recommended capital improvements for our wastewater collection and wastewater treatment infrastructure total approximately $159.9M, with roughly one-half of the work to be completed within 10 years. We are actively researching grants, bonds, low interest loans and systems development charge opportunities to help fund these important improvements; however, increases in customer rates are anticipated.


Customer Impacts

What does this mean for my rates? 

The OLWS Budget Committee will meet weekly in April through May to discuss the budget for the coming year, which begins July 1, 2023. The Budget Committee is a group of volunteers who are also OLWS customers. The OLWS Board of Directors will meet on May 16, 2023 to adopt the budget proposed by the Budget Committee. Then, the Board of Directors will hold a Public Hearing for the proposed rate, which will take place on June 20, 2023. This process will determine what rate increase will be required in the upcoming fiscal year to support the important capital improvements outlined above.

When will new rates appear on my bill? 

Following approval by the OLWS Board of Directors, any new rates will go into effect July 1, 2023 for the upcoming fiscal year.


Learn More & Give Input

How can I get more details on the proposed projects? 

The OLWS Wastewater Master Plan offers a detailed, technical description of the needed capital improvements projects. You can view that document at

How can I provide my input? 

This is a large and important community investment; OLWS values your input.

The Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, June 20, 2023 at 6 p.m. to provide information and receive public input regarding the proposed rate increase effective July 1, 2023.

All interested persons are invited to provide comment on this matter. Those who wish to provide verbal or written comments during this meeting must register at Further information can be obtained at or by contacting the District Recorder by email at


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