August 5, 2002
New anti-Brightwater group surfaces
by Jeanette Knutson
There's a new group of 40 or 50 people who look upon the proposed Route 9 Brightwater treatment plant as a speeding train headed for their neighborhood. Their mission, they believe, is to see that the train gets derailed.
The group, primarily made up of folks from and around the Windsor Park area near Wellington Hills Golf Course, is desperately searching for a fatal flaw that will halt plans for a $1.4-plus billion sewer plant on the 111-acre site east of Highway 9 at 228th Street Northeast, just outside of Woodinville.
Group members are poring over Phase I and Phase II Brightwater documents looking for discrepancies. They're digging into the history of the area, talking to people, coming up with prior engineering studies. They're combing through the Snohomish County Code, studying up on the Snohomish County Growth Management Act and sifting through the county's Comprehensive Plan.
The group is researching wastewater treatment plant mishaps that have occurred both regionally and nationwide. Could a spill such as the one that occurred in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1993 that contaminated a portion of the city's drinking water and sickened 400,000 people, killing 104, happen here, they wonder. Could the 13,000 families and businesses that get water from the federally designated sole source Cross Valley Aquifer (apparently situated adjacent to the proposed Route 9 site) be at risk if a wastewater facility located there had a spill, they ask. Is it wise to site a treatment plant next to an untreated water supply?
Group member Mark Sakura said Brightwater official Christy True told him the Renton sewage treatment facility is atop a sole source aquifer. But Sakura pointed out that the Renton plant was built in 1962-63. He said the aquifer was designated as a sole source aquifer in 1987-88. He wonders if the Renton plant would have gotten the OK-to-build had authorities known a sole source aquifer lay below.
Another group member, Don Fleming, heard Brightwater engineers have said they are aware of the Cross Valley Aquifer and believe they can work around it.
"Sure, they can work around it. But they cannot guarantee their technique will always work perfectly," said Fleming.
"Nothing manmade lasts forever," said Sakura, referring to engineers ability to "work around" the Cross Valley Aquifer. "In all probability there will be an equipment failure, human error, an earthquake. There are too many variables when we talk about this aquifer."
"There are only 70 sole source aquifers in the nation," said group member Linda Gray in a phone interview.
The Snohomish County Growth Management Act defines sole source aquifer as "An EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) designated area that provides 50 percent or more of its drinking water from a definite aquifer, and contamination of the aquifer would pose a significant hazard to public health, and there are no economically feasible alternative sources of drinking water."
"I look at this aquifer," said Gray, "as a national treasure, a national environmental feature. We are fortunate enough to be enjoying water that is virtually untreated. We're concerned about our aquifer. The way we see it, we are here to help (King County) avert a disaster."
Then there is the issue of air quality.
Sakura concedes the air-quality issue is not as potentially life-threatening as a water- quality issue could be; nevertheless, the proposed Route 9 site is situated in a valley that has a natural air inversion, causing air to flow close to the surface of the valley.
Gray contends the Route 9 air shed is not being properly evaluated.
"They didn't put up the weather monitor until June," she said. "They can't possibly learn enough about area air conditions to understand weather trends in a few months. Air conditions change seasonally out here.
"I guess our issue is that people haven't had an opportunity to understand the facts - the importance of protecting the aquifer, the need to study the air shed for a full year, the impacts construction will have on traffic, the disproportionate costs that choosing a Route 9 site will represent," said Gray.
"There is no excuse for our becoming involved at so late a date," said Gray, 'but we're every bit as committed as those who have been involved for the past year and a half."
"We feel," said group member Glen Jones, "this (Route 9 site) is the least desirable site of all the other sites King County had to choose from. We are not supported by city or state representatives. We don't have much assistance from anyone. It's as if they chose an area (for the Brightwater plant) they could pick on without (impunity). We might be late to the dance, but let's see if we can't do something. I think we can, if we get enough good people involved."
The group has tentatively scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22, at the Woodinville Church of Christ, 22502 - 75th Ave. SE, Woodinville.
Interested persons are encouraged to attend.