April 9, 2001
York Pump station near Woodinville on 128th St. NE.
Photo by Ned Ahrens, King County.
Wastewater happens ... and King County has plans for it
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Remember when you held your nose as you hurriedly drove past it? It was a monument to ugliness, and on top of that, it just plain smelled bad.
Not anymore.The wastewater treatment center has had a makeover. Instead of open tanks, the treatment centers are now housed in artistically designed buildings. Some of the centers have an educational center with an art gallery and water exhibits. Others have a place to take the kids for walks along landscaped hiking trails.
Surrounding many of the treatment centers are wetlands and creeks where water flows peacefully and birds hold operas undisturbed in the trees.
"When you start to see what our new treatment centers are like, as well as our upgraded centers, it starts to take away our old thoughts. Then you start to see the new possibilities," said Christie True, King County Manager of Planning and System Development.
For several years, King County has been searching for a site to place a sewer treatment plant called "Brightwater."
The plant is designed to meet the region's long-term wastewater treatment needs. At the two current regional plants, the King County wastewater system already treats more than 200 million gallons of wastewater from homes and businesses every day.
The system serves more than 1.3 million residents within 420 square miles. It consists of 255 miles of pipe, 42 pump stations and 19 regulator stations.
By 2030, the system will have to treat an additional 93 million gallons everyday.
Add to this the uncertain future of additional endangered species listings or new clean water regulations and the community's wastewater treatment system will need more capacity and flexibility than ever.
King County Executive Ron Sims developed the Regional Wastewater Services Plan (RWSP) after several years of analysis and public review. The King County Council approved the plan in 1999, which included the building of a new treatment plant in north King, or south Snohomish County.
According to officials at King County, their commitment for Brightwater is to protect public health and be a good neighbor.
On March 27, Sims and Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel announced seven proposed candidate sites for the new plant. Of those seven sites, five are located in the Woodinville-Bothell-Kenmore area.
"Initially, King County identified almost 100 land areas that might be suitable for the new wastewater treatment facilities. The land areas were analyzed for serious engineering and environmental constraints that would make the construction or operation of a wastewater treatment facility infeasible.
Examples of constraints include steep slopes, long and narrow site shape, landslides or unstable soils, flood zones, biological preserves or conservation areas," said Christina Faine, King County media relations coordinator for the project.
The upside to the project is that it conserves water as a resource, as well as keeping public health and environmental protection in check while meeting the needs of a growing population.
According to Faine, the wastewater will be re-used for agricultural and industrial use after the water goes through a purifying "tertiary" treatment. There are three phases in the purifying process, a primary and a biological process that remove the bulk of pollutants. The tertiary process is an extra step that removes another 10 percent of pollutants and disinfects.
Another positive impact the plant will have on the community is the improvements to streams and wetlands. Said True, "A lot of wetlands and creeks are really degraded and we could restore them to good habitat."
On the other hand, there's the fear of odors and truck traffic in the community's own backyard. "With the technology and equipment we have, odors are under control," said Faine. "But no one can guarantee 100 percent." She cites a facility in Vancouver where housing units are directly across the street. "As far as we know people have been happy with the facility," she said.
But not all Woodinville residents are convinced. Andy Walgamott said that the news of a potential sewer treatment center in his backyard has made him excessively cranky, "King County can paint pretty flowers on it, give it a fruity name and say it won't stink, and make a little park around it for kids and ducks and geese, but it doesn't change the fact that it's a sewage treatment plant, and it doesn't belong in or anywhere near Woodinville."
King County claims that they are addressing odors as well as truck traffic and noise with new design and technology. "People realize we're not impacting the roadways once we are there," said Manager Christie True. She said the center would have ten to fifteen employees in and out of the plant each day.
But will a center near a residential area depreciate the property value of homes? "We have not seen any evidence of that," said True. She explains that the facility will be hidden and commented, "Imagine a facility hidden by trees, plants and landscaping." She described a pump station in Sammamish Valley that looks like a barn as an example of how the plant can incorporate visually pleasing elements into the community. Other examples include a plant in Renton surrounded by a beautiful park and a plant in Vancouver where a resources education center hosts students studying water quality and fish protection. "It's been very popular. It's very environmentally oriented," she said.
Of the seven proposed sites, five could affect Northshore residents:
€ A site in the City of Woodinville near the intersection of NE North Woodinville Way and the Woodinville-Duvall Road.
€ A site within Woodinville's urban growth area near the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 522 north of Woodinville by the intersection of 228th and Highway 9.
€ A location in Thrasher's Corner in the City of Bothell at the corner of 208th Street and the Bothell-Everett highway
€ A gun range in Snohomish County between Brier and Bothell located on the 400 block of 228th street
€ A gravel quarry and additional undeveloped land adjacent to the quarry in the same area located in the 400 block of 228th Street.
In the fall of 2001, the seven proposed sites will be narrowed down to 2-5. The final decision will come down in 2003 by Executive Sims with plans for the new $779 million facility up and running by 2010.
"We will ask the community what they want and we'll take their desires into consideration,' said Faine.
For further information, visit http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wtd/brightwater/