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Poulsbo wearily eyes sewer spill season

POULSBO — It’s been four years since Liberty Bay saw the first of a string of autumn sewer leaks wash up on its shores. Five leaks and more than 900,000 gallons of discharged sewage later, city workers and the Liberty Bay Foundation are both heading into another fall season with fingers crossed in hopes a sixth spill won’t occur.

As autumn rains add to the sewer line load, Poulsbo Public Works director Jeff Bauman said it is the sewer pipe running beneath the shore from Liberty Bay Auto to the Marine Science Center that has him worried most, but he feels confident that should a leak occur, the city is ready and able to handle it quickly to minimize impacts.

“That is always serving under pressure,” he said of the pipe which was installed in 1978 and has now become a year-round concern.

He said the city has been closely monitoring the pipe and Marine Science Center pump station since its most recent leak in November 2006, when 3,000 gallons flooded the bay But previous leakages have released more than 550,000 gallons of raw sewage into Little Norway’s waters.

“We monitor how much flow is going into the pipe and how much is coming at the other end,” Bauman said. “We have someone every single day at low tide visually inspecting, looking for discoloration of sand.”

He said once the nearly-completed Bond Road pump station system is ready and the sewage flow can be rerouted, use of the line along Lindvig Way can be discontinued. Eventually, he expects it to be refurbished and used as a fallback line. Though there is no specific date the Bond Road system will be ready, Bauman said he hopes to have the flow rerouted late this year or early 2008.

“There’s no reason to expect a problem,” he said, though he added there was no reason to expect a problem before previous leaks. “Each day is one more day closer to our goal.”

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade agreed.

“We hold our breath on that one,” Quade said of the problematic line.

Liberty Bay Foundation executive director Kathleen Byrne-Barrantes said aside from the environmental impacts of previous leaks, they were also embarrassing. However, she does feel the city’s training and readiness have improved in regards to preventing and handling sewer problems.

“What we had here was raw sewage that spilled out,” she said. “It was just an enormous amount. There was stuff floating around and washing up on beaches for a long time.”

Byrne-Barrantes credited the leaks partially to fall rains increasing the amount flowing through Poulsbo’s sewer lines, and said stormwater runoff is probably the biggest problem throughout the Puget Sound.

“This bay just doesn’t drain,” she said. “You never want to have a raw sewage leak in your bay.”

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