Northwest NEWS

July 29, 2002


More Brightwater Q and A

King County responds to more task force questions about Brightwater.
   Comment: There are rumors that a decision has already been made to locate Brightwater at the Route 9 site. There are also rumors that sweetheart deals are being made and that property buy-outs are underway to financially compensate certain people for their support of the plant.
   A - King County can assure you that no decisions have been made about final locations for the treatment plant, conveyance pipes, and marine outfall. There is still a great deal of evaluation that needs to be done. The EIS will evaluate a set of alternative conveyance corridors that apply to either the Unocal plant site or the Route 9 plant site. The Final EIS is expected to be issued in mid 2003. The EIS process, along with continued public comment and input, will provide essential information that will be helpful to the decision-making process.
   There are no 'sweetheart deals' being made. King County is not making any compensatory offers in exchange for support of Brightwater at or near any of the facility sites being considered.
   Q - Cost is an issue. Why would you pick Route 9 given the assumption that it costs more than the Unocal site?
   A - Cost is a key factor that must be considered when deciding where to locate Brightwater, but it is not the only factor. Environmental, technical, and community considerations will also play a key role. For example, although Route 9 is the more expensive option, it offers a large site which allows more flexibility in design and many opportunities to enhance the community with landscaped buffers, open space, or other amenities like sports fields or education centers to mitigate potential project impacts. Due to its location, the site offers opportunities to use reclaimed water for purposes like irrigation and industrial processes. This is an important water conservation consideration as our drinking water supply reaches its limits. Cost must be weighed with additional factors like these in making a decision.
   Comment: People are worried about property values going down, and what can be done for them to recover if values do go down. There should be property tax reductions within a certain radius of the plant to compensate for losses in value.
   A - The county understands that potential impacts to property values are of great concern. It is not something the county can give a specific answer to because there are many variables that affect property values, such as national, regional and local economies. King County assures us that Brightwater will be a well-designed facility and an attractive neighbor. The county takes the environmental mitigation policies mentioned earlier very seriously and are committed to ensuring Brightwater is a community amenity wherever it is located.
   King County recognizes that this response does not always satisfy those who have concerns about property values.
   The agreements regarding mitigation or community amenities will play an important role in ensuring that Brightwater is an attractive neighbor, and again, the county encourages potential Brightwater neighbors to share their ideas and concerns with their local representatives as well as Brightwater staff and King County Executive Sims.
   Q - Are there other treatment plants that have conveyance systems as long or longer than 23 miles?
   A - King County has nearly 275 miles of conveyance pipes and 42 pump stations as part of its current wastewater treatment system. The 20 to 22 miles of conveyance that will be needed for the Route 9 system is the total for the pipes that will carry influent (untreated wastewater) and effluent (treated wastewater). We anticipate the influent pipeline will be approximately 13 miles and the effluent pipeline approximately 10 miles in length. The Eastside Interceptor, which is one of the influent pipelines that goes into King County's South Plant in Renton, is approximately 19 miles in length, and the Effluent Transfer System, which is the effluent pipeline from the South Plant, is approximately 11.6 miles in length.
   Almost all other major metropolitan areas (Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, and Los Angeles) have influent systems that are as long or longer than ours. Many have shorter effluent systems because the plants are located near the receiving waters.
   Q - Is the Route 9 site in a 100-year flood plain?
   A - A small portion of the Route 9 site, along the western boundary adjacent to Route 9, is located within the 100-year floodplain associated with Little Bear Creek. The total amount is less than 1/3 of an acre. Preliminary plant layouts at the Unocal and Route 9 sites are being developed and will be available to the public at the scoping meetings, which will take place in June.
   The county is not proposing building any of the Brightwater facilities within the floodplain boundary. The Route 9 site complies with the policy siting criteria that were established to evaluate the candidate sites, one of these criteria states that King County shall seek sites where it is feasible to construct and operate facilities that will not be at risk during a flood event.
   Q - Is one site better than another with regards to earthquake concerns?
   A - In Phase 1 of the siting process, environmental and engineering constraints were used to evaluate identified potential land areas for the Brightwater treatment plant. The existence of any of these constraints on the buildable area eliminated the land area from further consideration. One of the engineering constraints was a 'location within 0.5 kilometers from a documented seismic fault.' The evaluation of the Route 9 and Unocal sites found no engineering or environmental constraints and both these sites were found to be suitable for construction of a wastewater treatment plant.
   The Unocal site was found to have some soils that may be subject to liquefaction which may require some of the facilities to have pile-supported foundations to provide support during seismic events.
   At the Route 9 site, it is expected that most existing fill is not susceptible to liquefaction.
   Wherever located, the facilities will be engineered, designed and built to meet all regulations and standards regarding seismic concerns. King County is pleased to report that none of King County's wastewater treatment facilities were damaged as a result of the Nisqually Earthquake that took place in February 2001.
   Comment: Odors are a top concern. Monies to control odors should not come from mitigation funds.
   A - King County is committed to having Brightwater be the 'best in the United States' with regards to odor control, wherever Brightwater is located. From the comments we have received to date, odor is one of the top concerns. King County will invest in the best odor control technologies available; the costs for this high quality odor control will not be paid for by mitigation funds. Below is a diagram that illustrates the breakdown of costs for the Brightwater treatment plant (based on Phase 2 cost estimates).
   Q - What is mitigation? Who and how is it determined? Mitigation for mitigation also needs to be considered.
   A - We have heard from a number of people that the concept of mitigation is confusing and needs to be better defined. In the formal sense, mitigation refers to: 'avoiding or reducing impacts, using appropriate technology, restoring the affected environment, enhancing resources, monitoring and taking corrective measures.' Federal, state and local regulations exist that govern how environmental impacts are to be mitigated. King County will work with the appropriate agencies to determine the necessary environmental mitigation measures to pursue.
   The ordinance adopting the Regional Wastewater Services Plan (Ordinance 13680) also establishes policies that we must follow regarding mitigation. This ordinance states: "King County shall mitigate the long-term and short-term impacts of wastewater facilities in the communities in which they are located. The county's goal will be to construct regional wastewater facilities that enhance the quality of life in the region and in the local community, and are not detrimental to the quality of life in their vicinity." (The entire section regarding environmental mitigation policies from Ordinance 13680 is attached.)
   In other words, King County is committed to ensuring the Brightwater plant is a community amenity, wherever it is located. Agreements regarding mitigation or community amenities will be developed with the appropriate federal, state, and local agencies or organizations. Public input is essential and will help to shape these agreements. King County encourages residents to continue to share their ideas and concerns with their local representatives as well as Brightwater staff and King County Executive Ron Sims.
   Comment: In addition to odors, other top concerns mentioned include air quality impacts, potential for sewage or chemical spills, potential viral or bacterial infections and impacts to children, noise and vibration impacts, and traffic impacts.
   A - The county has heard from a number of people that odors and air quality are top concerns. King County is committed to providing 'best in the United States' odor control at Brightwater, wherever located. Impacts of odor and impacts to air quality will be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). At the April 2 Route 9 Task Force meeting, the county discussed the possibility of holding a community seminar that focuses on odor control and air quality issues. King County would like to pursue holding such a seminar in the summer or fall this year if there is interest to do so among task force members.
   Impacts of noise, vibration, and traffic during and after construction will also be evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement. King County will work with host communities to develop mutually agreeable solutions to their specific concerns. In past projects, we have incorporated odor and noise control measures and traffic improvements to eliminate or reduce impacts. Agreements will be developed with affected jurisdictions on these kinds of issues. King County must and will comply with any agreements that are established.
   Brightwater will be designed and engineered to prevent sewage from overflowing. County treatment plants are continuously staffed with licensed, certified technicians who monitor and control all plant operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are back-up systems and state-of-the-art safety equipment with redundant levels of protection to reduce risk.
   Communities around treatment plants do not come in contact with untreated wastewater and would not risk infections from such contact. Even for workers within the plants, the risk is very low. Studies have been conducted in the United States and Western Europe regarding the health of wastewater treatment facility workers. These studies have found that individuals who work in wastewater treatment facilities have no greater risk of disease than the general population.
   The county encourages you to comment on what you would like to see studied in the EIS during the scoping period, which takes place May 28 - June 27, 2002. Let them know what environmental concerns and what impacts they should study. Comments can be made during this time period at public meetings, or through filling out a comment form on the Brightwater Web site, or by mailing written comments to the county.
   Comment: There is concern about possible multiple uses at the Route 9 site. Some may not be appropriate or welcomed.
   A - King County will work closely with the host jurisdiction and interested parties regarding other possible uses at the Route 9 site, if it is selected as the location for the Brightwater Treatment Plant. Sports fields, education centers, community centers/meeting rooms, trails, and passive and active parks are just some examples of facilities that have been developed in conjunction with wastewater treatment plants. The county wants to hear from residents regarding their thoughts and ideas on the kinds of facilities that they would like to see at the Route 9 site if Brightwater is located there. The county's goal is to co-locate with facilities that the community views as an amenity and reflect the locally held community values.
   Comment: There is concern about the design of the plant, visual impacts, and whether or not there will be adequate buffers.
   A - Wastewater treatment plants can be designed to fit into the community in which they are located. The county will work with the local communities to find out how they would like the facilities to look. One way we plan to do this is through a series of design guidelines workshops, which will be held for each of the plant sites under consideration (Route 9 and Unocal sites). The workshops will offer the community the opportunity to tell us what is important about the site and what should be considered in the design of the facilities. By the last workshop, the county hopes to have a set of design guidelines that the architectural and landscape architectural team can follow as they begin design at each plant site.
   Several types of buffers will be incorporated into the design of the treatment plant. Landscaping and other types of buffer will be established between the treatment facilities and surrounding land uses. Buffers will also be established around sensitive areas such as wetlands, streams, and steep slopes. King County will work with the community and regulatory agencies to determine appropriate buffers.
   The EIS will address visual impacts and mitigation measures. King County encourages residents to comment during the scoping period on these and other issues that are of concern. They also encourage participation in the design guidelines workshops beginning in July of this year.
   Q - How much of the Route 9 acreage is outside the Urban Growth Boundary?
   A - Approximately 38.5 acres of the total acreage that comprises the Route 9 site is outside the Urban Growth Boundary, and approximately 72.5 acres are within the Urban Growth Boundary.
   Comment: There are worries that the plant will put pressure on the urban growth boundary, which would change the rural character.
   A - Siting Brightwater at the Route 9 site could help to create a buffer between the urban and rural areas. Siting Brightwater at the Route 9 site also offers opportunities to protect natural resources such as Little Bear Creek, which may not happen with other kinds of development.
   Urban growth boundaries cannot move arbitrarily. The Growth Management Act provides guidelines for counties and cities regarding the establishment and expansion of urban growth areas. Also, there are restrictions under state law on providing wastewater service outside the urban growth area. The planning efforts for Brightwater intended for these facilities to meet the wastewater treatment needs in the northern portion of our service area; the projected need was based on existing and forecasted population growth within the urban growth boundary.
   Comment: It would be helpful to know what the growth plans are for Woodinville, Maltby, and Bothell, with or without Brightwater.
   A - Response: It is possible that this topic could be discussed in a future task force meeting or could serve as a topic of a future seminar. King County is willing to work with task force members and these jurisdictions to pursue this idea if there is interest.
   Comment: There is concern that people on septic systems will have to hook up to the wastewater system. There is also the concern that the people on septic systems will bear the burden of impacts from Brightwater.
   A - Local sewer agencies contract with King County to treat wastewater from their area. The decision of where to build or extend service lines rests with the local wastewater districts and agencies. These decisions are based on local land use decisions; this service is only provided within designated Urban Growth Areas, with few exceptions. King County plans for and constructs wastewater facilities consistent with plans established by the local districts and agencies. It's likely that residences in the Route 9 area will eventually be served by Brightwater if they are within a sewer district. There are, with few exceptions, restrictions under state law on providing wastewater service outside the urban growth area. The siting, construction and operation of Brightwater does not enter into these decisions, except with regard to our legal obligation to provide wastewater treatment to the region.
   Brightwater will protect our region's public health and environment by providing the capacity needed to meet our wastewater treatment needs. We all benefit from this essential service. If Brightwater does not meet its schedule, our region could face environmental impacts from sewer overflows or a building moratorium imposed on both King and Snohomish counties.