City kicks off ‘Utility System Tours’

Wastewater Superintendent Erich Schroeder explains the role of the chlorine contact basin to guests on the wastewater treatment plant tour on July 22.

The first round of guests toured the city’s wastewater treatment plant on July 22 as part of the City of Cottage Grove’s inaugural “Utility System Tours.”

Led by Wastewater Superintendent Erich Schroeder, the two-hour tour gave attendees an opportunity to learn and ask questions about the wastewater plant’s process from intake to treatment.

The event was the first of three educational tours which are also taking the group on tours of the wastewater collection and water systems over the next two weeks.

City staff and city councilors Mike Fleck, Chalice Savage and Candace Solesbee were also in attendance while nonprofit South Lane Wheels provided transportation.

“It was kind of an opportunity for people to get more than just a single Facebook post-worth of information,” said Assistant to the City Manager Jake Boone. “And to be able to actually see it while they’re getting the information.”

The behind-the-scenes look at the wastewater treatment plant led guests through an educational journey around the plant, stopping at various stations to learn about oxidation, the role of bacteria, clarifiers and the process of turning the city’s wastewater into fully treated effluent ready for irrigation at the city’s golf course.

“I think it went really well,” said Boone, who was also in attendance. “In my personal opinion, it seemed that everybody there was really engaged and interested.”

City staff and councilors have discussed improving community outreach efforts this year as part of new goal setting efforts.

The idea for the tours followed from this as a way “to help our local residents, which includes the council, better understand how all of this infrastructure that they are paying for works and why it’s important and why it costs what it does,” said Boone. “Also, why we need skilled persons on staff to be able to run these things – to give people a window on those complexities.”

Two more rounds of tours are planned in the coming months. The next three-week round of tours for the next group will include councilors Greg Ervin, Kenneth Michael Roberts and Jon Stinnett, beginning Aug. 12.

A final round of tours including Mayor Jeff Gowing will begin on Sept. 2.

The inclusion of the Cottage Grove City Council in the tours was a purposeful addition.

“There’s no point in doing a bunch of tours to educate the citizenry about these things and not include our city councilors, who are the ones who are most directly making decisions about them,” said Boone. “Everybody who comes on the city council gets a tour of those locations, but it’s not as in-depth.”

The potential for future tours covering other aspects of city remain, but no plans have yet been made.

Those interested in joining a tour group can contact the city manager’s office at 541-942-5501 for more information.  

More information on the wastewater treatment plant can be found in brochures at the front desk of City Hall.

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