Some property owners outside city limits but within the Blaine urban growth area (UGA) may be able to connect to the city’s sewer system, Blaine City Council decided last week.
In their last regular meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution that would allow certain outlying property owners to obtain sewer services for an additional fee and for the cost of installing those lines if they can prove their septic systems are failing and beyond repair.
The decision comes after testimony from Blaine public works director Steve Banham about the problem of failing or failed septic systems near the city limits and the environmental impacts they could have on the Drayton Harbor watershed.
The option will be limited to those who have obtained documentation from the Whatcom County health department that their septic system is failing and without prospect of replacement because of the lot configuration of their property.
“It can’t be ‘I have a septic tank and I don’t like doing the maintenance on it,’” Banham said. Blaine city attorney Jon Sitkin said the state’s growth management act (GMA) prohibits the extension of city services outside city limits but there are exceptions for situations that pose an environmental or public health hazard.
The cost of the new connection fee and the installation of additional lines would be shouldered by the property owner, which could prove cost prohibitive.
Blaine has typically had some of the highest sewer connection fees in the county but in a separate ordinance passed last week, the council enacted a five-year moratorium on water and sewer connection fees and substantially reduced connection fees for outside the city limits. That resolution has reduced connection fees for both water and sewer from $5,794 to $2,897.
“That will help a little bit,” Banham said. “Although there will still be a fair amount of cost there.”
Banham also said because of GMA rules the city has never provided sewer services outside city limits and therefore would need to create an amended fee schedule to accommodate monthly charges. Although the rate has yet to be decided, Banham said it would most likely be similar to the 150 percent mark-up outside residents pay for city water service.
“They will be paying some mark-up because they’re not in the city limits,” Banham said. “But we’re trying to make it so it’s reachable for these folks.”
Banham said he will introduce a proposal during the next city council meeting on September 14.