April 13, 1998

Front Page

City Suprised by county's news of watewater treatment plant proposal

County says one big plant; water chief says how about a few small ones

  by Andrew Walgamott
  Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--News that King County may build a wastewater treatment plant somewhere in the north end caught Woodinville by surprise, the city's mayor said last week. Documents presented to the Bellevue City Council in March and picked up by local newspapers say King County Executive Ron Sims is expected to recommend that a new 50-acre wastewater treatment plant be built somewhere near the King-Snohomish county line in the next century. Though Woodinville got a heads-up on the county's Regional Wastewater Services Plan (RWSP) last year, the issue slipped out of sight until recent articles, Mayor Don Brocha said.

   The county says a new plant is needed due to pressing growth and capacity concerns. If capacity isn't added to the system by the year 2010, Woodinville, Bothell and Kenmore "are likely to experience sewage backups in homes, streets and streams," a report to Bellevue's council states. Still, Brocha wondered why the county spoke to Bellevue but not Woodinville when a plant could potentially affect the city. "Nobody likes surprises. We want to be informed as possible," Brocha said.

   Building the northern plant was part of several options presented in the RWSP released last May. The plan identified four strategies to cope with growth over the next 35 years. A local plant would treat sewage collected in King County's "North Service Area" which stretches from Lake Washington north to Everett and includes the Swamp, North and Bear creek basins. The cities of Bothell, Kenmore, Woodinville, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Mill Creek as well as unincorporated Snohomish County served by Cross Valley and Alderwood water and sewer districts are within the service area. Other RWSP options included expanding Renton and West Point facilities, and digging a deep tunnel to store and convey stormwaters. Christie True, the county's Regional Wastewater Services project manager, said the northern plant could be built on Puget Sound or inland, but probably wouldn't be located east of the urban growth line. That means probably not east of Woodinville's city limits in King County and east of Bothell in Snohomish County. The further from the Sound, the higher the energy costs to pump sewage to an outfall pipe, True said.

   Growth is responsible for the need for a new facility, the county says. The county's two treatment plants are expected to reach capacity within 10 to 12 years. County surveys show that residents want a new plant built where the most growth is occurring which is north of Lake Washington. About 83,000 residents live in the Snohomish County side of the North Service Area alone. That population is expected to double and triple by the year 2030, according to True. While Brocha noted there probably was a need for a new plant, he said, "I can't say if we'll support this or not. They have to make their case." True said a meeting with the city was pending though not scheduled.

   Meanwhile, the Woodinville Water District has begun a feasibility study on building smaller, regional plants. Bob Bandarra, district manager, said perhaps Sims could be persuaded to build multiple, lesser-sized facilities if he saw that revenue from the sale of treated water could offset costs. Bandarra envisions a 10-acre facility in the area that could treat 10 to 15 million gallons of waste per day (mgd). A potential customer is Northridge (now Redmond Ridge), a large housing development east of Redmond where a golf course may be built. He notes that the district's water use jumps from 3 or 4 mgd in winter to 11 mgd in summer. That surge is linked to lawn watering and other outdoor uses. He said a smaller plant could treat water for irrigation needs in summers, and in fall and winter, water could be used to boost stream flows for salmon. That's important because of the proposed listing of the Puget Sound Chinook salmon as a threatened species. If the Chinook is listed, water for fish would become a priority. Water that would have gone for human use instead would stay in streams. Bandarra said the study will determine whether or not there is a market for reused water. Calling the idea "intriguing," Brocha said "Using treated water is a great idea. We've talked about conservation. We've talked about how the lack of water is going to affect us very soon."

   But the county says direction is needed soon. "We do need to make a decision about this because it could affect us in terms of pollution, or hurt growth needs which would affect the economy," True said. A report to Bellevue's council notes, "The need to move forward on a new plant is critical particularly since permitting, design and construction takes about ten years, and work cannot begin until a site is identified." Sims will make his recommendation at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island April 27 at 9:30 a.m.

   Frank Abe, new media executive director for Sims, said the county would launch a public outreach campaign on the RWSP through "new medias" such as the Internet and the county's cable channel, C-TV. "The RWSP will be one of the first efforts to make aggressive uses of new technology to us," Abe said. He said information would be posted to county's website, www.metrokc.gov, live panel discussions would be aired on cable and residents could give feedback through e-mail. The County Council is expected to act on Sims' plan by the end of the year. Work to identify a site could begin in 1999.