Covering all the sewer bases

Published on Thu, Mar 1, 2001 by Soren Velice

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Covering all the sewer bases

By Soren Velice

To seek federal funding for a solution to Blaine’s wastewater treatment problems, city manager Gary Tomsic met with Washington’s congressional delegation including senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and representative Rick Larson during his recent trip to Washington, D.C.

“I think they’re all aware of what the problem is and how we got there with the Lummi ruins,” Tomsic said. “I sensed a willingnes to help, but we’re going to have to put together a good proposal, and Rick’s going to have to push it for us; I didn’t get a sense of a firm commitment, but I think we’ll be able to do this.”

To find a solution, the city of Blaine will spend $10,000 to study alternatives to the regional plan currently being examined by the city and the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD).

“There are some alternatives brought up in the past we could look at and some that are obvious, like building our own plant,” Tomsic said. Other options tying into the greater Vancouver system by way of Surrey, B.C. or purchasing one or more “package plants” made in Surrey.

Tomsic heard about the package plants from Trillium vice president Ken Hertz, who had worked with the manufacturer before. “Ken encouraged me to talk to them and see what they might be able to do for us,” Tomsic said. Hertz had also talked to BBWSD general manager Roger Brown. “He had a few thoughts about things that should be considered,” Brown said. “We’re open to looking at ideas out there for alternatives, but that’s really something the city’s doing; we look at ourselves as one of those alternatives.” Brown said Hertz also suggested seeking state funding through state representative Doug Erickson in Olympia.

The city and BBWSD are also working together on a new water contract. “The city seems to want to keep us as a customer,” Brown said. The district will present a demand forecast at the next negotiation meeting March 6, showing average and peak demands for each year.

“I think at a conceptual level, we’re all pretty agreeable about how we percieve a wholesale contract,” Tomsic said. From the city’s side, he added, improvements to Blaine’s system needed to sell water to the district would have to be funded by BBWSD. For the district’s part, Brown said he prefers to work within existing capacity. “From our standpoint, it’s negotiating within available water rights in the city, not developing new capacity,” he said

If the city’s capacity can’t meet BBWSD’s entire demand, the district can supplement the city contract. “One of the alternatives we have is that we’ve drilled a new well - well #2 - so we could speed development of that; we also have a contract with PUD for a significant amount of water, so we have ways to fill the gaps.”

Tomsic said the parties are working on finding any gaps. “The devil’s in the details,” he said, “so we have to work on how much water they’re going to need, how much we’ll need and look at it from there.”

Brown said the district’s presentation at the next meeting should illumiate negotiations.. “We’re taking a look at a demand forecast for our water comprehensive plan,” Brown said. “We’ll present that to the city as a basis for discussion. They’ll look for aggregate demand and see what they can do and we’ll go from there.”

Brown said negotiations will likely conclude in the near future. “There seemed to be a desire to wrap up soon,” he said. Tomsic said he hopes to have an agreement within two or three months.

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