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Public works director proposes sewer fix

POULSBO — In the wake of the 553,000-gallon sewage leak that closed Liberty Bay for more than a week in September, Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln went looking for answers.

On Oct. 26, he presented the city council’s public works committee a $75,000 solution.

The proposal was in response to a request from the committee immediately after the spill to report on the costs associated with upgrading the city’s monitoring system.

“We need to increase the sophistication of our system and we need to do it now,” Lincoln said of the city’s utility monitoring system.

The city has the software capability to be able to tell what is happening at each pump station and outflow in real time, but without the required hardware for the rest of the system, it can’t take advantage of that potential, he said.

“Right now, our system tells us what happened, but it doesn’t tell us what’s happening,” Lincoln said, noting that the inability to interpret the data collected by the city’s system played a role in the September leak.

That leak was discovered when a public works employee noticed something wrong on the shores of Liberty Bay and notified city officials of a potential problem.

Further review of operational data from the Lindvig Pump Station revealed that the leak had existed for about three weeks before being noticed and summarily repaired.

If the new hardware were installed and operated properly, public works employees would be notified immediately of any potential problems in the system and would be able to respond, Lincoln said.

“I think we ought to do the whole thing because there is true economy of scale in getting it all done at once,” he said. Phasing in the installation could dramatically add to the potential costs, he added.

“For $75,000, you could get the whole thing installed and the whole thing running?” asked Councilwoman Kathryn Quade.

Lincoln replied that is reasonably certain about the estimate but would double check on his cost projections.

“The whole purpose is to be able to look at the entire system,” Lincoln said, explaining the importance of being able to complete the project at once as opposed to piecemeal.

Having that would mean it wouldn’t take 21 days to detect a problem and would be almost instantaneous, Quade said after listening to Lincoln’s explanation.

Even though the project would in all likelihood be included in the department’s 2006 budget, Lincoln asked for approval as soon as possible.

“I’d like to start in November, so we could have everything ready to go for next year,” he said, adding that the installation has a lead time of about six to eight weeks.

While he would like to expedite the process, Lincoln told the committee he didn’t want to do it too quickly and have it get in the way of the budget process.

“We’ve done a good job, but we need to take it to the next level,” Lincoln said.

Councilman Dale Rudolph, who currently chairs the committee, said the next step is for Lincoln to rework the proposal and formally bring it before the committee so it can be forwarded to the full council for final approval.

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