Northwest NEWS

December 14, 1998


County should comply with existing law

What was most astounding at the Nov. 30 Bothell hearing on King County's wastewater services plan was hearing and reading testimony from highly-regarded scientists, including a Ph.D. in marine ecology, that secondary sewage treatment to protect Puget Sound is not necessary due to the sound's flushing action. (Which ties in with a former statement by Dr. Andrea Copping of the University of Washington that there is no harm from Victoria's untreated sewage going into the Strait of Georgia because of the flushing action there.)

   However, due to public perception, both primary and secondary treatment will be done here, hopefully at the lowest possible price. It should be noted that King County Executive Ron Sims' preferred alternative is about $300 million higher than King County Councilmember Maggi Fimia's preference, and it carries much higher monthly sewer charges.

   Mr. Sims' plan to make newcomers pay future sewerage costs via capacity charges is fair only if those charges are equitably calculated and are directly related to sewerage facilities. Many concerns have been expressed about non-related projects being funded by sewerage revenues, including King County's World Conservation Corps.

   A 1995 financial audit for the King County Council on sewerage facilities capacity charges found significant faults in assumptions and methodology. The audit indicated the results did not comply with state law. King County now intends to lobby the legislature to change the law, rather than comply with the law.

   Current law sets the capacity charge limit at $10.50/month until Jan. 1, 2001, after which the charge can't exceed 50% of the basic sewer rate and can be collected only for 15 years. King County wants significantly higher charges for 25 years. The county also wants authority to use the funding for non-sewerage projects.

   At the Bothell hearing Geoff Clayton said citizens want habitat protection, including Sammamish River flows sufficient to float rubber ducks, and that sewerage capacity charges should cover habitat protection. That's not fair, since the public as a whole benefits from habitat protection, and those benefits should not be funded by newcomers' sewerage charges. (That is one more nail in the coffin of affordable housing that will result in tax increases to pay for future subsidized housing.)

   Tell your state legislators and King County Council members that current state law regarding capacity charges is OK and that King County should comply with that law, not seek to change it.

Maxine Keesling, Woodinville