Northwest NEWS

October 29, 2001

Front Page

Duvall looking for financial help with sewer plant expansion

'Hardship' grants would help ratepayers
   by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor
   DUVALL - The city intends to apply for state "hardship" grants to help pay for the expansion of the sewage treatment plant, according to Public Works Director Elizabeth Goode.
   "Otherwise, sewer rates to residents will be higher than they can afford," she said. "The rates really would be unacceptable."
   Goode said the city will apply for grants from the state revolving fund (SRF), which is administered by the Department of Ecology (DOE). The DOE offers money for new facilities that use the latest technology to improve water quality.
   Without financial help for the $13 million plant expansion, she said, monthly rates that are now $35 would eventually go up to over $100.
   "I know people can't pay that," she said. "But we had to do a rate study to show what rates would be with financial help and also without it. What we need to do now is show financial hardship."
   The city needs to upgrade and expand the plant in order to be compliant with the DOE, the Endangered Species Act and the Growth Management Act. Parametrix, Inc., the city's wastewater engineering consultants, proposes to use membrane technology, which would help the city meet increasingly stringent water quality standards for effluent. The effluent would be safe enough to reuse for irrigation, augment low river flows or for possible sale for such use by others.
   The city is currently pilot testing the membrane technology at the treatment plant.
   The Parametrix report shows what rates would be under "Scenario One" and "Scenario Two." Scenario One assumes the city will receive a $5 million clean water grant from the SRF, as well as a 1.5 percent low-interest loan.
   "If the city is able to secure financial assistance, rates are projected to stabilize by 2006 at $79.17 per residential unit," the report says.
   Scenario Two states that if the city finances the construction of the plant through the sale of revenue bonds, which impose high interest on the borrower, rates would plateau at $129.55 by 2006. Both scenarios begin their rates at $49.42 in 2001, but Scenario Two jumps to $126.47 by 2002, while Scenario One only goes up to $54.62 in 2002.
   "But even the $79 figure (Scenario One) is too high," Goode emphasized. "So we plan on looking for other sources of revenue to further lower the rates, including no-interest loans. We are not proposing rate increases at this time."
   Goode said the city has also asked King County to look at the costs of the county possibly owning and operating the plant, or for Duvall using the proposed new county plant, dubbed "Brightwater."
   "But King County said they couldn't do it for less than $65 per month per resident," she said. "We are also talking to Carnation ... maybe for the two cities to work together to keep the rates down."
   The plant expansion is on schedule, she said. Currently the city is conducting its environmental review.
   "We have the land," she said. "The biggest thing now is funding. The plan has to be submitted for approval to DOE and the grant application is due in March 2002 to receive funding in the fall of 2002. I think the state will help us if we can demonstrate hardship."
   But Goode emphasized that "growth will pay for growth. Developers will pay more for hookup fees they will be slightly higher without the grant and slightly lower with it."
   Goode said construction time for the plant is expected to be five years.
   There will be a public comment period for the draft Duvall Wastewater Facility Plan at a later date. For those who wish to review the report, copies are available at the Duvall Library and Duvall City Hall. Anyone who wants their own copy should contact the city clerk at (425) 788-1185.