By Emily Hagin
In 2014, the district completed construction on the Headworks Replacement Project to increase capacity at the wastewater treatment plant. This project was supported by a Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF) loan.
PWTF loans are expected to become increasingly difficult to obtain in the future as the Washington state legislature uses the PWTF program balances to fund other priorities in the state budget. This program has been a highly successful way for local governments to obtain low-interest financing.
The district implemented all new billing, financial accounting and payroll software. In addition, the district provided a number of convenient ways for customers to pay their utility bills. Customers can now pay their bill by auto-debit, online at bbwsd.com, home banking payments or at the district office.
To help customers in need, the district collaborated with the Community Assistance Program of Blaine to implement a Utility Assistance Program. In conjunction with paying their water and sewer bills, customers can now make a voluntary contribution to the program, which goes towards assisting other district customers in need.
The district achieved another clean State of Washington Financial and Accountability Audit for 2014. The district maintains in excess of $55 million in fixed assets, 56 miles of sewer pipe including 11 pump stations and 76 miles of waterline, and continues to have water and sewer rates that are among the lowest in Whatcom County.
The district was nationally recognized in the widely circulated “Treatment Plant Operator” magazine for its efforts to improve energy and process efficiencies at the wastewater treatment plant. Since 2007, the district has reduced its energy consumption by an average of 28,000 kWh, amounting to about $18,000 in savings per year.
Other improvements, along with knowledgeable, detail-oriented staff members, helped the district win its fifth consecutive Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award for the year 2013 by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Birch Bay is one of only two wastewater plants in Whatcom County serving 4,000 people or more that has won the award 12 or more times in the last 17 years.
The district and the city of Blaine were also awarded second place in the Northwest subsection of the American Waterworks Association’s (AWWA) 2014 best-tasting water contest. The water was tasted by a panel of three judges who sampled water from a total of 14 water purveyors in the Northwest Washington region.
The district continued active membership in the Whatcom Water Alliance, a regional water conservation group seeking to promote water conservation among local government water purveyors by coordinating public information efforts and related activities.
For 2014, members agreed to support a voluntary odd-even watering schedule to reduce summer outdoor water usage and support rain barrels as a conservation activity.