Sewerplant location seen as a good thing by some

Published on Thu, Apr 22, 2004 by rent Cole

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Sewer plant location seen as a good thing by some

By Brent Cole

After the initial shock of the potential placement of the wastewater facility on Marine Drive site has worn off, some city leaders within Blaine have done a 180-degree turn around and are now supporting the location.

The much discussed sewer treatment plant has been one of the more newsworthy stories in Blaine over the last five years. Starting with the digging up and transplanting of human remains found at the treatment site, the sewage treatment plant problem has been a roller coaster ride for the citizens of Blaine. Now, after five years and over 15 different potential site locations, it appears there is initial agreement on a new site along Marine Drive with city leaders leaning towards the location of the old sewer treatment plant at the tail end of the road.

The 40,000 square foot building would fit on approximately half to a full acre of land, depending on the configuration of the building, the potential educational facilities, and the lighthouse designed by Brad O’Neill.

Though the building hasn’t been designed yet, there will be a charette to help determine that, Steve Banham from the Blaine public works department believes the building will most likely be rectangular with a portion of it “potentially underground.” They cannot put the entire building underground, however, because trucks will need to have access for removal of sewage sludge from the building.

One of the proponents of the Marine Drive location is Port of Bellingham commissioner Jim Jorgensen.The port owns most of the land along Marine Drive, but not the proposed site, which is owned by the port. They have offered to help fund the project, as they are “very interested in the plant being down there,” stated Jorgensen, who is also president of the Marine Education Foundation. “The port is very concerned that Marine Drive is done correctly.”

Some of the concerns about the facility are obvious, the look, smell and noise effects to the area. Jorgensen believes these issues can all be taken care of using the latest technologies in the design of the system and the building itself. “A facility can be built so that no one would notice it.”

One of the alternatives that appear to be drawing the most support would include an education center and lighthouse connected to the facility. The education center could include information on area birds and other wildlife as well.

The Marine Education Foundation board voted unanimously on April 19, to support site five on Marine Drive (where the old sewer plant is located), pending a footprint of the building and the inclusion of the educational facility and lighthouse.

According to the city, the potential design and locations weren’t decided without extensive research and thought. Some of the Blaine city staff has been out to other waste treatment plants, including one in Powell River, B.C., and reported “no odor” associated with the plant.
The water coming out of the system will also be clean and could be used to irrigate neighboring areas. “Water that comes out of there is water that can be used on golf courses,” claimed Jorgensen. “I’m not going to stand and drink it, mind you.” One idea being floated is the use of the water at the Semiahmoo golf course, saving the water currently being used for better uses.

Another proponent of the new site is Geoff Menzies, project coordinator of the Drayton Harbor community oyster farm. “Instead of having untreated sewage going under the harbor, it’ll be treated, which is much better.”

Menzies’ primary concern is the second phase when the west Blaine treatment plant is dealt with. In the meantime, the new plant location will “take a huge load off the (west Blaine) plant. If the plant is handling a lower load, it should work better.”

Though initially the idea of having a waste treatment plant along Marine Drive was a great cause for concern, civic leaders like Jorgensen hope to educate residents on the benefits of this location.
“If it really is relatively odor free and relatively noise free, and the footprint fits in the parameters discussed, then the amenities would be a great benefit to the area,” stated Jorgensen.