Port Angeles sewer overflow project opponent advocates different method

PORT ANGELES — An opponent of the city’s

$42 million solution to prevent combined sewer overflow from polluting Port Angeles Harbor said Tuesday the project would sully the waterfront with above-ground pipes.

“What you have happening here, and of much concern to us, is the industrialization of the waterfront,” Darlene Schanfald told about 35 members of the Port Angeles Business Association at the group’s weekly breakfast meeting.

The city, Schanfald said, “is looking at reindustrializing the Rayonier property” in what’s a tsunami-earthquake zone.

The presentation by Schanfald, the Olympic Environmental Council Coalition’s Rayonier mill cleanup coordinator, was the first of a two-part PABA series on the city’s combined sewer overflow project.

City Engineer Michael Puntenney will present the city’s side of the issue at the business association’s next meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Joshua’s Restaurant, 113 S. DelGuzzi Drive, Port Angeles.

CSO project costs

City business and residential water users will pay about $4,900 for the CSO project in increased rates over 20 years, Puntenney said Tuesday.

Schanfald said a low-impact development system — which would include disconnecting residential downspouts, allowing harmful stormwater to filter through soil and planting trees for filtration — is far preferable to the city’s plan to install new sewer lines by 2016.

The city of Saginaw, Mich., for example, uses pervious asphalt to reduce runoff into its sewer system, according to a report available at http://tinyurl.com/44j6e9e.

Minimize it or stop it

“The debate is to minimize it or to stop [combined sewer overflow],” Schanfald told the business association.

“The city is looking at how to minimize it. We are proposing ways to stop it.

“One thing we agree with the city on is that stormwater overflows need to be handled.

“It’s sad it’s going into marine life and continuing to harm it.”

Height of pipes

Some CSO pipes will be below ground, Schanfald said, but others will be above ground, including “9-foot-high pipes running back and forth, back and forth between the tank and treatment plant carrying untreated water and sewage.”

But Puntenney said Tuesday that piping for the project “will be inside existing waterline or it will be buried,” adding, “there is absolutely no 9-foot-high pipe involved.”

About 30 percent of the city’s combined sewer system was designed to carry stormwater, along with diluted human sewage, city staffers have said.

Schanfald said the city should identify where stormwater gets into the sanitary sewer system and fix the problem.

Fix the problem

“We are saying, use the money you have to upgrade and expand the stormwater collection system. . . . low-impact development is the best way to clean stormwater, the best way to recharge our aquifers.”

The CSO project includes additional sewer lines that would be built between the city’s water treatment plant and a nearly 5-million-gall­on tank on Rayonier’s property.

The tank will store the effluent soup during rainfall- and snowmelt-driven overflow events before it’s processed at the treatment plant.

Between 30 and 110 overflows have occurred annually since 2003, with excess pollution flowing directly into Port Angeles Harbor through four outfalls.

Target of four overflows

The target is no more than four overflows annually by 2016 elimination of three of the outfalls.

Contaminants in combined sewer systems include “pathogens, oxygen-consuming pollutants, solids, nutrients, toxics and floatable matter — all of which can harm the health of people, fish and wildlife,” the state Department of Ecology says on its website, www.ecy.wa.gov.

City utility ratepayers began paying $14.95 a month for the CSO project beginning in 2005.

The fee, which will pay back low-interest state loans for the project, increases by $2 annually plus the rate of inflation until 2015, when it will reach $26.40 a month.

The CSO project cannot be put out to bid until resolution of a state Shoreline Hearings Board appeal filed by the Olympic Environmental Council and part-time Port Angeles resident Tyler Ahlgren.

Schanfald said both sides are putting together arguments and witness lists that will be submitted to the hearings board “in a few weeks.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at [email protected]

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