Study will help city set future sewer rates
EVERETT - The city is likely set to increase the sewer rate next year, but it doesn’t yet know by how much.
Everett’s sewer rate has consistently gone up 5 percent the past four years under an ordinance passed in 2008. The ordinance expires this year, and public works officials are expected to propose a rate increase for 2013.
How much of an increase is unknown. The department has a consultant working on a rate study, which is due Aug. 1. The 2013 rate will be solidified before it goes before the City Council in November.
It’s “too soon to tell” whether the rate increase is more than 5 percent like years past, utilities finance manager Matt Welborn said.
Currently, single family customers pay $46.70 per month for sewer service. In 2009, the rate was $40.30 per month.
Increasing the rate will help Everett pay for its $77 million sewer plant upgrade, but that’s only partly why rates would go up, public works director Dave Davis said.
The plant will increase Everett’s sewage capacity from 33 million gallons a day to 40 million gallons a day.
The city is working on a contract with the city of Snohomish to take its sewage, which if signed would take about 3.5 million gallons a day of the plant’s capacity.
The plant is being built in two two-year chunks. Phase one starts in 2014 to expand the plant; phase two starts in 2016 to add a digester, which is a tank that breaks down solid waste.
To help cover part of the upgrade, Everett has applied for federal funding and $15 million in state funding. The city will know whether or not it gets that state funding in May, Welborn said.
The city’s wholesale sewage partners would help out, too.
The city handles sewage from water districts in Mukilteo, Silver Lake and the Alderwood area. Those districts would cover 24 to 30 percent of the cost for the plant upgrade, Welborn said.
The percentage depends on whether Snohomish hooks up with the city, Welborn said.
The city of Snohomish was sued by an environmental group in 2002 for dumping too much raw sewage into the Snohomish River.
The city had two options to remedy this: build a new $40 million plant, or pipe its sewage to Everett for about $33 million. In 2010, city leaders opted for a pipeline to Everett.
Snohomish is expected to firm up negotiations with Everett later this year, Davis said.
If the deal gets inked, Everett would be able to take Snohomish’s sewage starting in 2016 at the earliest, Welborn said.
Both the Snohomish and Everett city councils would need to sign off on the contract before a pipeline is built. Earlier this year, Davis said he thought a contract would be ready for the Everett City Council in the spring.
City still eyeing Kimberly-Clark site
Kimberly-Clark’s mill may be closed, but the site does have one thing potentially valuable to the city: a functional sewage treatment plant.
The city studied the plant but hasn’t decided whether it wants to acquire it from Kimberly-Clark, Davis said.
The mill treated millions of gallons of water a day used for pulp and paper processing during the mill’s heyday. The sewage plant wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate all of Everett’s sewage needs, but it could help, Davis said.
Who buys the mill site dovetails with whether the city can use the sewage plant. Davis said that’s an “annoying question” he can’t answer. If a company that processes a lot of water comes in, they could fill up the sewage plant’s capacity. If a different company, such as a boat builder or shipper, came in, the plant would probably go unused.
An economic analysis suggested last month that boat builders and shippers are two viable industries for the 67-acre mill site because of its waterfront location and rail access.
Kimberly-Clark plans to demolish the mill site this summer.