Planning expected to begin by fall for sewer upgrades in Clallam Bay, Sekiu

CLALLAM BAY — Carlsborg’s sewer system was completed last year.

Now it’s the West End’s turn.

Planning will begin by October for upgrades to two sewer systems that serve about 350 households in precipitation-prone Clallam Bay and Sekiu.

Rain events in the two communities are overwhelming pipes and the treatment system, forcing albeit heavily diluted sewage to flow into Clallam Bay, county Engineer Ross Tyler said last week.

Clallam County commissioners at their Feb. 5 meeting authorized public works to issue requests for proposal beginning Wednesday for an estimated $250,000 general sewer-wastewater facilities plan for the county-operated Clallam Bay-Sekiu Sewer District.

“It really is important,” West End-District 3 Commissioner Bill Peach said Sunday.

He predicted sewer rates that are set by the commissioners will remain “comparable” with other sewer districts once the system is improved.

Any potential rate changes will be reviewed by the Clallam Bay Sewer Committee.

“The question will be, what kind of funding can we get from the grant sources?” Peach said.

“After that, there’s the question of what it will cost to operate.”

A consultant will review conditions of the existing concrete piping system, the two treatment plants and outfall that serve Clallam Bay and Sekiu, and fixes and cost estimates for the improvements.

“It’s degraded over the last 40 some odd years,” Tyler told the commissioners at their meeting last week.

“We do have to have a general sewer plan, or the Department of Ecology is not going to continue to treat us with favor.”

County solid waste manager Meggan Uecker said she hopes to have a contract in place by May 1 and a final plan in place by Oct. 30 in hopes the county can seek state funding for construction beginning in 2019 that could be completed in about a year.

“Our issue is right now what is our funding that’s needed in totality,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said.

County Administrator Jim Jones said the sewer-wastewater facilities plan will be “a linchpin” to obtain resources to pay for the improvements.

“We are going to spend many millions of dollars on this project before we are done,” Jones said.

In a later interview with Tyler and Uecker, Tyler said the full breadth of what’s needed to address the treatment system overflow won’t be known until cameras threaded through the sewer system can assess the pipes’ condition.

Tyler said he expects the improvements will cost less than the $14.5 million Carlsborg sewer system, which was “substantially completed” by April 1 with roads striped and paved by last summer.

The West End sewer improvements will cost far less, Tyler predicted.

“On the high side, it will be down to maybe half that or easily less than that,” he said.

“If you’re talking two or three million [dollars], that’s a fairly significant chunk of change.”

Tyler said he does not expect the improvements will require rate increases to customers who will have to hook up to the new system.

“It’s in areas where the customer base is supporting it as much as they can support it right now,” he said.

Construction is not likely to disrupt traffic to, from and in the two communities.

The system’s regular failures must be reported to state officials, Tyler said.

“When we get rain events out there, they overwhelm our treatment system and raw sewage flows out into the bay, and we have to report that to the Department of Ecology,” he said.

“That is a regular event.

“It happens dozens of times a year, and it’s just time now for us to stop it.

“We know the system is old, we know we have leaky pipes.

“If we need to replace them, we need to replace them.

“The two sewer treatment plants are functioning fine.”

But operating costs might be lowered by building one treatment plant for both communities, Tyler added.

“The technology that is treating wastewater like that has not changed much in 40 years,” he said.

“We need to figure out how to tune up the system so we don’t get rainwater in it, and make the treatment part more efficient.”

The sewer system for Clallam Bay and Sekiu was built in the 1970s.

It addressed the “massive failure of the numerous septic systems that had to be replaced, Tyler said.

“The Department of Ecology declared a state of emergency and said, ‘We are going to close you down unless you put in a sewer system.’ ”

Tyler said he doesn’t expect Ecology to declare another state of emergency, but Ecology officials are still saying “this really needs to be done, and we want to help you guys do it,” Tyler said.

“This is part of the reason that we know that we need to have a recommendation by September or October, because our Department of Ecology partners are going, ‘If you get this done by September or October, you fit into the funding cycle that will get you funding sooner for 2019.’ ”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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