Birch Bay plant one of tops in state

Published on Thu, Aug 9, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Birch Bay plant one of tops in state

By Meg Olson

Top brass from the state department of ecology (DOE) converged on Birch Bay to honor the water and sewer district for a spotless sewer record.

“You pitched a perfect game and you did it every day for a year,” said DOE field office manager Richard Grout to district staff as he presented them with the outstanding sewer treatment plant award. “It speaks to how you’re working with us, helping to preserve this precious resource we have in Birch Bay,” added Kevin Fitzpatrick, water quality manager for the state.

“There aren’t very many plants that are able to meet all the criteria to get these awards,” said DOE Bellingham water quality specialist Mark Henderson. “They’ve done it two years in a row. That’s an important accomplishment.”

The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) was one of 25 wastewater plants of the 300 licensed in Washington to be in 100 percent compliance with their discharge permits. They were the only plant
recognized in Whatcom County. The district met all state and federal environmental standards for what they discharge into local marine waters and never missed a sample or a report. “They did everything right,” Henderson said.

Henderson explained that the district is required to test for bacteria, dissolved solids and biological activity, metals, chlorine and other compounds that are either the by-products of waste digestion or part of the treatment process. He said system operators needed to constantly monitor and tweak the system to make sure effluent stayed within the narrow window of minimal environmental impact.

“These are biological systems, not like machines you can fix with a screwdriver. They are always fluctuating and to react to those fluctuations and keep the system working properly takes real diligence,” Henderson said. “It matters because, if there’s an upset, they discharge pollutants. Birch Bay doesn’t do that. They not only don’t have overflows, they also don’t overchlorinate.”

District manager Roger Brown said they were proud to get the award for a second year in a row, especially considering the past year has also seen a major upgrade to the treatment plant. “There was a lot of disruption last year,” he said. “Being able to do this under those circumstances is even more remarkable. This is a great thing for our operators.” The wastewater plant is run by manager Steve Hovde and operators Mike Roof, Fred Reid and Jeff Brant.

Henderson added that the changing seasonal population in Birch Bay meant seasonal changes in load at the treatment plant, an additional challenge for plant operators. “Those guys have to react to that, and they do it very well,” he said..

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