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Wastewater arguments surface in Kingston

KINGSTON — For 10 years, Kingston has been involved in a tug of war by two opposite minded groups about a proposed wastewater treatment plant. It’s a hot topic because Kingston’s 25-year-old wastewater plant that serves about 600 families is failing and the community must build a new sewage treatment plant.

According to Rick Gagnon, sewer utility manager for Kitsap County Public Works, the current wastewater plant, located in downtown Kingston, is on its last breath and is a virtual time bomb.

Deciding how and where to build a new wastewater treatment plant hasn’t been an easy process. For 10 years Kitsap County has also been knee-deep in appeals, addendums, and aggravation while sorting out the plant’s environmental impacts.

As the process goes on and debate continues there is the worst-case possibility that Kingston’s ailing current wastewater plant could fail completely. If it does, crews will have to haul waste from the growing community 24 hours a day to Poulsbo, where waste would then flow to the central plant in Brownsville. Three times in the past five years, Kitsap County crews have already had to pump Kingston waste in this type of emergency fashion.

The delays and concerns revolving around sewage treatment are because the treatment plant has tremendous potential to create growth and environmental change in Kingston.

A new sewage treatment plant would serve the Urban Growth Area, the boundaries of which are under review. The plant would make way for a Village Green park site with much-needed ballfields, a possible new community center and a pedestrian zone.

The flip side of the coin isn’t so positive. As part of the new wastewater treatment plant plans, crews would also dig a trench through Appletree Cove, south of the marina for an new outfall pipe. The end of the pipe will reach 165 feet deep. This necessary work will disturb sediment and upset the cove’s delicate ecosystem.

“Of all the projects the county’s done this is the most environmentally studied,” Gagnon commented. Bound reports on this one project fill Gagnon’s office shelves.

“We try to support growth not drive it,” Gagnon said

A pipe of contention

The latest wrinkle in the wastewater saga came at a hearing in Port Orchard on March 14.

A handful of Kingston residents on each side of the wastewater argument attended the hearing and voiced their concerns for the umpteenth time.

Many of the concerns from residents opposing the plan center around the outfall pipe — where treated water goes into the cove.

“I cannot believe anyone who personally experiences the cove by walking, swimming, boating or watching would agree to the assumption that this is the wisest place to dig the outfall trench. It is a fragile, historically degraded ecosystem assaulted by years of poor planning,” said Marilyn Bode in a statement she read during the hearing. For more than 60 years, the Appletree Cove tideflats have been in her family.

She and other residents adamantly oppose the new path for the pipe and can’t understand why the county won’t simply replace the existing pipe in its existing location.

According to Gagnon, the proposed new wastewater plant could serve nearly double the number of families and abandon using chlorine to disinfect the water, producing cleaner effluent. It could also be added to if the population increase demanded it.

The current pipe — that extends out into the cove just north of the ferry terminal was damaged in the mid-1990s when contractors working for the Washington State Ferries essentially broke it.

Gagnon said the state’s Department of Natural Resources refused to grant the county permission to replace the pipe in its current location. It is within the Washington State Ferries corridor and would not be compatible with future ferry plans he explains.

The 5,290 foot pipe avoids eel grass and extends far enough out not to disturb geoduck tracts, but what about the Bode’s tidelands? She said the sediment disturbance anticipated from the project will be detrimental to the cove.

Gagnon has received the final sediment analysis report and said everything looks good. Digging on the tidelands would be done at low tide with six inches of sand placed on top so there was no need to test the sediment there he said.

“I think the Kingston Community as a whole supports this project,” Gagnon said.

Following the discussion deputy hearing examiner Terry McCarthy opened the comment period for two more weeks. The county will then have one week to refute new claims. McCarthy is expected to issue a decision in May.

Money talks

The new wastewater treatment facility supporters believe having a new plant would increase development in Kingston. Supporters see the plant as a positive improvement to the infrastructure that entices businesses and would-be-home owners.

Those potential homeowners could be living in the White Horse neighborhood. Its fate has been sealed and the homes can be built, as far as the courts are concerned.

Supporters of a new plant argue the current wastewater treatment plant has stifled economic growth because it cannot support additional burdens.

But what those burdens might be is murky.

It has yet to be determined if the planned White Horse golf course and 224 homes will included in the UGA boundaries. The same is true for Arborwood and Apple Tree Point developments if they get the green light. If they are included in the UGA, each household can expect to pay a $6,430 connection fee. Those fees would be used to pay for the expansion of the plant, Gagnon said.

Anyone within the UGA now must also pay the same fee.

The county has already spent more than a half million dollars to study the new outfall pipe route and will spend about $4.4 million to build it over the course of two construction seasons. Nearly $2 million is coming from the Washington State Ferries as part of the settlement for damaging the existing pipe Gagnon said.

Where will the plant be built?

The Final Revised Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement shows the plant’s location at a 10-acre site off Norman Road. This was the third choice for a proposed new site.

“Fifty, a hundred years from now some one would be looking for a new location,” he said when asked why a new location for the plant is necessary.

The county has wastewater facilities in Suquamish, Manchester, and near Brownsville. The improvements to those plants have all been done on the existing sites.

Those sites, however, have another thing in common. They are all outside of current UGA boundaries.

Not many people expect to see the plant built in the next five years. It certainly won’t break ground in a year, county officials said.

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