Proposed upgrades that will make a big difference in the capacity and operations of the Birch Bay Water Sewer District’s (BBWSD) wastewater facility are in the works.
In the past few years, the district has more than doubled their sewer capacity for the service area, which reaches around 5,500 customers in Birch Bay. “With all the growth that has occurred in the past 10 years, we’ve had to up our force mains [the pipes that bring sewage to the plant],” district assistant manager Dan Eisses said. “Now it’s time to increase the capacity at the plant.”
At minimum flow, the BBWSD wastewater treatment plant processes between 600,000 and 700,000 gallons of wastewater per day. That flow can fluctuate though and sometimes reaches as high as 2.5 million gallons – currently manageable, but a level that stretches the capacity of the facility. As the community grows, the need for increased capacity grows along with it.
To accommodate this growth, and to increase efficiency at the plant, the BBWSD is building a new headworks for their facility which will have the potential to process up to 4 million gallons of water a day once complete.
The headworks is an essential first stop in the water treatment process. As wastewater flows in through the sewer system, it goes through the headworks where solids are removed with a screen and the liquid is passed on to the next stage for silt and sand to settle. “It basically removes the stuff that shouldn’t be in the sewer, but gets in there anyway,” Dan Eisses said.
The liquid continues through a purification process before it is discharged into the ocean.
The current BBWSD headworks is outdated and inefficient. Completely outdoors, it is exposed to the elements and requires daily vacuuming to remove the silt from the grit channel. To keep it from freezing, the district has to create a makeshift housing for the machinery out of tarps during the winter months. “It’s not ideal for the machinery to be out in the open 365 days a year,” Eisses said. “We should get better life out of it,” he said, since the project plans include a closed housing for the headworks and a pump system to clear the sediment that is extracted from the water. “It will be more efficient,” he added.
The project is still in the planning stages, and plans have been created to outline what the district hopes to see as a final result of the works project.
Eisses hopes that it will go out for bidding by February and a contractor will be at work by May. They expect the construction to be completed within 6 to 8 months’ time. There should be no interruption in service while the new facility is being built.
To pay for the new headworks, the district applied for state funding that is earmarked for infrastructure upgrades, and received a low-interest 20-year loan. “Our customers have to pay off that loan,” Eisses said, noting the fees that will be assessed to pay for the $1.7 million dollar loan would be a negligible increase for customers. “We try and predict our rates with a 10-year rate model so we don’t have a big jump in fees. We have some of the lowest rates in the county,” he said.