Port Townsend sewer rates to rise in 2024

Population growth driving system upgrades

PORT TOWNSEND — Sewer and wastewater rates in Port Townsend are set to go up in 2024 as the city upgrades its systems to comply with state and federal clean water laws.

Port Townsend City Council members unanimously approved $90,000 to hire contractors to conduct rate model studies for the city’s sewer and stormwater systems before the council votes on changes later this year.

Rate update proposals will be presented to the council in September, said Public Works Director Steven King, with ordinance adoption set for October. The increases will go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Speaking to the council on Monday, King said now that the city has a population of more than 10,000, the federal Clean Water Act required an upgrade to water treatment systems.

According to the 2021 U.S. Census, Port Townsend has a population of 10,306.

“We’re now a town of 10,000 people so we need to consider the impact of having a (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) for our stormwater system,” King said.

The current sewer rate ordinance expires at the end of 2023, King said, and with the additional requirements of the NPDES, the city will need to update its rates.

With a population of 10,000, cities enter into Phase 2 of the NPDES program which requires additional water treatment including illicit discharge elimination; construction site runoff control; post-construction runoff control and treatment and pollution prevention as well as public education and outreach, according to meeting documents.

The upgrades will improve the quality of the city’s wastewater, King said, but will require additional capital investments and operating costs.

“All good things to do,” King said of the upgrades. “It’s just it’s a considerable amount of resources to invest in our stormwater system, and that’ll be reflected in the rates.”

Council members approved two appropriations Monday; one for $60,000 to hire Redmond-based FCS Group to study the city’s sewer and stormwater rates and another for $30,000 to hire a consulting firm to develop an NPDES program.

King said the city has worked with FCS Group in the past and that company had previously worked with the City of Poulsbo on similar issues.

“The information that comes forward out of the rate analysis is what is the impact of the operations on the monthly rate, what is the impact of capital investment on that monthly rate and then you’ll review policy things like how much pipe replacement do you want to invest in over the next few years,” King said.

Moving into the next phase of the NPDES program generally requires cities to hire a stormwater management team, King said. Based on the city’s size, Port Townsend will likely need to hire at least one person for stormwater management.

Also Monday, the council approved $45,000 to hire RH2 Engineering of Bothell to inspect 10,000 feet of sewer main in the downtown area following a break in the pipe on Dec. 27.

Following heavy winter weather, a suspected build-up of hydrogen sulfide gas deteriorated the asbestos concrete pipe beneath Water Street, forcing the need for emergency repairs.

Following the break, city officials expressed concern at the possible condition of the remaining sewer line, which was installed several decades ago.

RH2 will use video equipment to inspect the sewer main beneath Water Street and, if necessary, assist in rehabilitating the pipe.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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