2016 Year in Review: Birch Bay Water and Sewer District

By Dan Eisses

In 2016, the district continued to work to secure future water supply and began the North County Interbasin project funded through the Washington State Department of Ecology and partnering with the city of Blaine. The project includes drilling three exploratory wells in the deep water aquifer east of the city of Blaine. A secure future water supply continues to be a part of the district’s mission.

The district prioritizes public involvement and has increased transparency in governance by implementing software (BoardDocs) that publicly maintains board meeting agendas and minutes online for citizen access. The district began a commissioner biography series in its newsletters to showcase each of the three elected commissioners’ background experience and district project interests.

The district is nearing completion of two major capital improvement projects. First, the aging waterline on Blaine Road was replaced including installation of new fire hydrants. Second, the wastewater treatment system aeration basins received an upgrade that included fine bubble diffusers to reduce electrical costs and increase the capacity of the plant to handle future wastewater needs for citizens. Both of these major capital improvements were finished with much of the work being done by very skilled district staff members.

The district prioritizes employee and citizen safety. District staff participated in the nationally endorsed emergency response drill Cascadia Rising and partnered with countless cities, counties, state agencies, federal officials, the military, tribal nations, non-government organizations and the private sector to further our preparation for a potential earthquake or other
emergency. The district continued collaboration with the Community Assistance Program of Blaine to offer assistance to low income customers. In 2016, many customers were able to keep their water service with this assistance program.

The district won its seventh consecutive (14th total) Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award for the year 2015 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 have won the award 14 or more times in the last 19 years.

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 2016, the alliance supported a voluntary odd-even watering schedule to reduce summer outdoor water usage and support rain barrels as a conservation activity.

In 2018, the district will focus on efficiently meeting customer billing and payment option requests. The district is looking to begin a GIS project to survey the service area which will create efficiencies during operations and maintenance. The district will also be sandblasting and recoating the wastewater treatment plant clarifiers.

We plan to continue investing in a water project to install automated meter reading equipment.

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