Cities closer to sewage pipeline deal
EVERETT - Everett is readying itself to receive Snohomish’s sewage, and residents in both cities will benefit.
Snohomish wants out of the sewage business after it was sued for releasing too much raw sewage into the Snohomish River, racking up Clean Water Act violations. The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance environmental group sued the city in 2002. After settling the lawsuit in 2003, Snohomish has been working ever since to clean up its act.
Snohomish recently began constructing “hotels for bacteria” at its plant to help bacteria eat up the sewage better, but the city’s long-term solution is to pipe all of its sewage to Everett.
Everett is expanding its sewage plant by 2020 and can happily solve Snohomish’s problem while saving Everett customers money. Everett should have its $60 million sewage plant expansion complete by the time Snohomish’s pipeline gets to Everett.
With Snohomish paying Everett to use its plant, Everett residents would see a drop of $5 to $7 in their sewage bill if the deal goes through.
For Snohomish, a town with 3,500 rate payers and about 9,000 people, sending the city’s sewage to Everett is cheaper than building a new plant that meets state Department of Ecology standards. Ecology’s standards tighten up every five years, which is partially how Snohomish’s plant built in 1995 fell out of compliance.
Snohomish is readying to build a $20 million, five-mile pipeline to be done by 2020.
Snohomish would pay Everett an initial estimated $12.5 million buy-in fee to hook up to Everett and a $4.6 million payment to help with Everett’s sewage plant expansion, city officials in both cities said.
The pipeline’s construction will come out of Snohomish’s wallet.
Snohomish could pay an estimated $1.2 million each year in operation fees if it wants to send all of its sewage over. The $1.2 million figure is calculated from an estimated rate of $29 per household. Snohomish has about 3,500 rate payers.
Elected officials in both cities would need to sign off on the agreement before those figures are final. Both the Everett and Snohomish city councils are expected to have their say this spring.
Snohomish is increasing its sewer rates to help pay for the pipeline.
Almost a decade ago, the base monthly rate for sewer was $33.05 in Snohomish. In 2011, it was $56.70 per month. Sewage rate increases are planned over this decade.
In 2010, Snohomish got a deadline extension from Ecology on building the pipeline, letting Snohomish draw out the rate increases over a longer time period. The extension Snohomish got from Ecology will allow the city to increase rates 3.8 percent from 2014 onward. Before the extension, it was set to increase the rate 11 percent from 2014 to 2016.
Snohomish will have to keep its sewage rates on pace so it can pay Everett, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson warned two weeks ago. Snohomish, which is experiencing budget shortfalls, tried to negotiate a lower buy-in cost but Everett pushed back, Stephanson said.
Everett would be locked in to take Snohomish’s sewage if officials sign off on it, but Everett has the right to turn off the tap if too much is coming through because of heavy weather conditions, Everett Public Works director Dave Davis said.
That would cause overflows in Snohomish under heavy weather circumstances, but Snohomish plans to use its lagoons to hold and store the sewage.
“It’s going to work out fine,” Snohomish Public Works director Tim Heydon said.
(Everett faced similar circumstances over the Thanksgiving holiday when it released about 25 million gallons of mixed sewage and storm water into the Snohomish River.)
The expanded plant will be able to handle Snohomish’s sewage, Davis said.
Everett is expanding its plant from 33 million gallons a day to 40 million gallons a day. Snohomish would pipe in an estimated 3 million gallons a day to Everett.
Everett’s plant handles 30 million gallons of mixed sewage and storm water a day during the wettest months. About 75 percent of that effluent comes from Everett residents.
Taking other cities’ sewage is nothing new for Everett. It already takes sewage from Mukilteo, Silver Lake and the Alderwood Water District.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Jan. 25, 2012