Northwest NEWS

September 23, 2002

Front Page

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Woodinville City Council faces tough decisions on Brightwater sewer plant

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   They streamed into Council Chambers, filling the room. Some sat. Some stood. Many chatted in a neighborly fashion until the public hearing was called to order.
   There were over 100 people present, young and old. And each, no doubt, was moved to attend the Sept. 16 Woodinville City Council public hearing on Brightwater for their own reasons.
   Brightwater, for the uninitiated, is the 36-million-gallon-a-day sewage treatment plant that just might get built on a 110-acre site outside Woodinville city limits, along State Route 9.
   Under consideration is also the 53-acre former Unocal oil tank farm in Edmonds.
   Yet the Route 9 location is the "preferred" site, dubbed so by King County Executive Ron Sims on Aug. 13.
   City Manager Pete Rose addressed the Council.
   "Make no mistake. You (will be) impacted by (the sewer plant)," said Rose.
   You will be impacted if it smells. You will be impacted by how it looks. And you will be impacted if it has leaks or spills, he said.
   The question is, said Rose, are (City Council) interests the same as those of the unincorporated folks.
   Rose sees the Council's interests as being odor, "It cannot smell," he said; surface and ground water, "It cannot spill into Little Bear Creek nor pollute drinking water"; and property value and future economic impacts, "Eighty-four acres of the proposed site are acres the City of Woodinville was hoping to acquire. They were tagged for a future industrial and office park," he said.
   Rose acknowledged that how the city handles the Brightwater issue will determine whether Woodinville remains a good place to live.
   Almost as if addressing Brightwater officials Christy True and Michael Popiwny, both seated in the front row of the audience, sometimes taking notes, Rose said, in essence, show us where (such a plant's) merits lie. That would give confidence.
   In a staff report presented to the Council, Rose wrote, "This may be an issue where the City Council wants to show leadership and to develop a pro or con position, but that should only occur after careful fact finding, public input, qualified advice and thoughtful deliberation. It is definitely an issue where the city should develop a position about proper mitigation for short and long term impacts."
   Brightwater manager Christy True rose to speak while her colleague Michael Popiwny reseated himself at a table to her right in order to operate a PowerPoint presentation that was projected onto a large screen.
   True said her staff's goal was to have the best odor control in the U.S. - seven times lower than most other treatment plants.
   Flashed on the screen was another Brightwater goal: "Keeps odors at non-detectable levels for most noses - hydrogen sulfide (the smell of rotten eggs) = 99.99%."
   Hearing and seeing the staff goals may have been salve for the minds of some Brightwater doubters ... at least until the audience had its chance at the podium.
   Citizen Mark Sakura said, "Seven times (lower than most other treatment plants)?" That's not quantitative. Do it at West Point (treatment plant) first. Prove you can do it. Then (promise) it here."
   Clayton Fleming said he was glad odors will be kept at non-detectable levels for most noses.
   To this he added, "I have a very large nose," and he turned to share his profile with an appreciative audience. "Seven times lower than most other treatment plants? I don't understand this," Fleming said.
   Bill Stankus refuted that 99.99 percent of the rotten-egg smell could be removed from the air.
   "Ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent," Stankus said, "We're talking parts per million that pollute the air."
   Joan Atlas referred to an article printed in a recent Sunday Seattle Times supplement, Pacific Northwest magazine. She said according to the article, there is a Metro sewage plant at Discovery Park and "they still haven't fixed (the odor problems there)."
   Edmonds resident Stuart Heady said, "Promises made today are like the promises made to the Indians."
   He also said, " A $1 billion dollar sewage facility will allow banks to lend money to developers." This, in turn, he said, increases the need for infrastructure, more water sources and pipelines, more roads, electrical plants, schools. Soon taxes will have to be raised to pay for it all.
   "... This process is unbelievably bad government," said Heady.
   Flashed on the screen earlier in the hearing were Brightwater staff's "take" on the long-term growth implications of this sewer plant.
   * "Brightwater is being built to meet planned growth estimates within current designated urban growth areas
   * "Brightwater's planned capacity is based on these planned growth estimates
   * "Land use decisions regarding urban growth boundaries and extensions of sewer service are made by counties, cities, sewer districts."
   David Potter touched on a topic others also addressed.
   "Woodinville is being developed as a destination area. How many times will they organize tours for senior citizens for the sewer plant? Woodinville and sewage are going to be thought of together," said Potter.
   Every so often a council member or two would perceptively tense up, almost flinch or winch, when a speaker mentioned "Sewerville " or "Sewageville." Oftentimes, the speaker was being sarcastic. A couple times the audience snickered. The City Council never did.
   Charley Blaine was glad to be in "Sewageville" that evening. He said so in his introductory comments to the Council.
   "One nice thing (about a Route 9 Brightwater)," said Virginia Smith, "if people want to know where Woodinville is, they'll just have to follow their noses."
   Former Woodinville City Councilman Don Schneider recalled the wonderful logo created for Woodinville when it first became a city. (The logo contains a river, towering pines, mountains, a hot air balloon.)
   Schneider, who sat on the city's first Council, said, "We had hoped when we planned for the future, we would look at that logo."
   Schneider hoped the city wouldn't have to alter the logo by adding sewage tanks to it.
   Terry Jarvis noted that the plant itself would take up 25 to 30 acres of the proposed 110-acre site.
   "What happens to the rest of the property?" said Jarvis. "I can't accept Brightwater's promises. We are in danger of losing our only area of future growth. ... I ask the council to do everything they can to oppose it."
   Jarvis' comments were followed by loud applause. As were Schneider's and Smith's and Blaine's and everyone else's, save the Brightwater officials and the lone Brightwater supporter who participated in the hearing, Greg Stephens.
   Stephens, who lives directly across the street from the proposed Route 9 site, is president of Little Bear Creek Protective Association.
   "We support (this) site (for what can be done) to enhance Little Bear Creek and its salmon populations," he said.
   I share concerns with the rest of the community, he said, about light pollution, about odor, about traffic, about air quality.
   Stephens is the vice-president of the Maltby Alliance, which, he said, "... is moving forward with incorporation (plans for the town of Maltby, to include the Brightwater site itself)."
   He said, "We are prepared to work with King and Snohomish counties and Brightwater to enhance our community."
   Sakura, Linda Gray and others spoke of the Cross Valley Aquifer.
   Sakura said Brightwater staff failed to recognize the boundaries of the aquifer's "critical recharge zone," the area which captures water that eventually seeps down to replenish the aquifer. Sakura and his group Just the Facts believe the proposed Brightwater plant will sit atop the critical recharge zone and that if there were a spill, the aquifer would be contaminated.
   "This aquifer," said Gray, "is a sole source aquifer, only one of 70 in the nation."
   Gray considers it a national treasure that should not be compromised by having a sewer plant built directly over it.
   "I am much concerned about the siting of this facility," said Gray. "(A Route 9 Brightwater would require) 13 additional miles of conveyance."
   One only has to look at the $14 billion "big dig" in Boston - which isn't even as deep as what's proposed here - for an indication of how this project might go, she said.
   Tony Niolu said, "I am adamantly against this thing."
   Niolu did not care for the PowerPoint photo showing what Brightwater manager True called the Little Bear Creek Greenbelt.
   The photo depicted a potential view along Route 9 ... if there were a sewage treatment plant there. Deciduous trees were sketched in to block facility.
   "That will look nice in winter," said Niolu.
   Niolu is an electrical engineer. He said he, unlike many others, was not so much impressed by what technology can do. He, instead, was more impressed by what it can't do.
   Virgina Smith and Ed Stephenson spoke of the wetlands all along Route 9.
   "When I go to mow the lawn," said Smith, "I have to wait till June (because it's so wet). When I go to my husband's shop ... I sink down (because there are so many springs close to the surface)."
   Stephenson said woods around his house have hundreds of artesian wells.
   "The whole area is a huge watershed ... very wet. If I walk slowly, I sink down; a lot of water comes oozing out," he said.
   Twenty-four people spoke in all. Four went to the podium twice. Many asked the Council for help.
   "Please help us stop this," said Gray.
   "Please do what you can to protect us," said Katherine Batts.
   "I would support a class action lawsuit to stop this," said Christy Diemonde.
   "Take a stand against (Brightwater)," said Glen Jones. "Fight to keep Woodinville the way it is. Will you be remembered as leaders who fought for greater preservation of Woodinville?
   "Oh, the irony," said Council member Don Brocha. "We don't want a sewer plant here - but it's here."
   "No it's not here," sang a chorus from the audience.
   Brocha said he stood corrected. The audience was right.
   "Edmonds isn't out of the running," he said.
   "... We're going to work on the facts, work on the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). ... The City of Woodinville will do our due diligence," said Brocha.
   Council member Cathy Weiderhold said she appreciated the public's coming out and asked them to remember that council members all own property in Woodinville, that Brightwater was a personal issue for council members as well.
   Council member Chuck Price said, "If we could click our fingers and make it go away, we would. But we can't."
   Price said he appreciated (Tim Joseph's) comment about trusting Brightwater facts, with verification.
   Council member Bob Miller said Woodinville did have another site on the Brightwater list that they managed to get removed.
   (Readers may recall the City of Bothell managed to get three sites removed from the list.)
   "This site is not in the city," he said.
   Miller did want further information about what planners intended for the additional 75-odd acres not incorporated into the plant itself. He wanted more information about the sole source aquifer, about the proposed de-watering process, and about the artesian wells in the area. He also wanted to see maps other than those provided by Brightwater, the ones that showed the plant in the center of the critical recharge zone.
   Gareth Grube thanked the community for coming. He assured the audience the city was plugged into the process all along.
   Grube wanted to see a true comparison of costs of the two sites under consideration, Route 9 vs. Edmonds. He also favored lengthening the Draft EIS comment period from 45 to 60 days.
   The Council made a motion to request that the comment period be extended to 60 days. It passed. They made and passed a motion to hire additional consultants as needed and necessary. A motion passed to gather more information on how spills will be handled, on land subsidence and the artesian well issue, on heavy metals, on the accuracy of the aquifer map, on how the EIS addresses the use of the (other) 75 acres, and on the handling of biosolids. Another motion passed which said the council would focus comments for the EIS on economic and property value impacts and the associated costing of alternatives.