CWAC evaluates alternatives, will meet next week

Published on Thu, Sep 18, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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CWAC evaluates alternatives, will meet next week

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The citizens wastewater advisory committee (CWAC) met for the sixth time earlier this week, evaluating 13 sewer alternatives for nearly four hours.

The goal of the meeting was to narrow down the alternatives to three, (to then be presented to the public and to city council); however, they were only able to cut that list to four. In the process of evaluating, the committee stated several points in their decision making, including the importance of water quality and educational opportunities.

�They�re doing a terrific job,� public works director Steve Banham said about the committee. �I am incredibly pleased with the work the committee has done and I think they have raised important issues.�

The 13 alternatives include different location sites such as Marine Drive, Semiahmoo and the gravel pit near Allen and D streets. Other alternatives include sending sewage to Birch Bay or Canada.

Harbor, creek concerns
One of the top concerns with CWAC members in establishing an alternative is that some of the plans contain cross-harbor sewage crossings through Drayton Harbor and most feel a different route needs to be taken.

�That�s a concern you all have: raw sewage in a pipeline under sea water,� said Linda Macpherson of CH2M Hill, an engineering company facilitating the meeting. �How can we do that? We need to think about engineering technologies.�

Committee member Trevor Hoskins then asked if those �engineering technologies� can be guaranteed. �Maybe guarantee is a strong word, but we need to be assured these technologies exist when making this decision. We�ve never been told that about Drayton Harbor,� he said.

Macpherson then responded �You�re right Trevor, we haven�t answered that yet. I think those assurances can be guaranteed,� she said.

�And tunneling. We haven�t heard that word yet for Drayton Harbor,� Hoskins responded.

Macpherson said tunneling has occurred in other areas and noted work done in her home city of Portland and in Philadelphia. �Let�s get those questions out and answered,� she said about the alternatives. �Any questions you have, let�s answer them.�

Two current ideas for tunneling sewage across Drayton Harbor include utilizing the existing pipe under the harbor or reconstructing and reusing the pipe.

Committee member Geoff Menzies said he is very concerned with the harbor, and it�s important to remember the economic and educational opportunities, such as shellfish harvesting.

�We have a history of failed underwater lines,� Menzies said about the lines and the harbor. �That�s a fact.�

Jim Jorgensen was also concerned with establishing a new plant or sewer alternative near the harbor and Marine Drive. �When looking at Blaine�s plans, I just don�t see that fitting in at all.�

But Frank Bresnan disagreed, and told the committee to think about the educational possibilities involved with a plant. �If we really paid attention to Marine Drive...wouldn�t that be a benefit to Marine Drive and the community?�

The committee has been shown footage and visuals of plants in other communities that act as both treatment facilities and also classrooms, such as the plant in Vancouver, Washington.

The committee was just as concerned with establishing a sewer alternative near Dakota Creek, outright rejecting any placement near or within the creek.

Sending to Birch Bay, Canada
The list of alternatives that CWAC is evaluating also includes sending sewage to Birch Bay, Canada or both. They discussed a 14th alternative, which could potential send east Blaine�s sewage to Canada and west Blaine�s to Birch Bay. These alternatives didn�t require any cross-harbor piping, and eliminated water quality issues within the harbor.

�You don�t have to go across the water,� Hoskins said.

But, some committee members discussed the potential problems with exchange rates and politics.

�We�re dealing with another country,� said member Jim Jorgensen. �We need to think about that.�

Macpherson asked the committee to think about the politics involved.�There is an uncertainty with this one. It�s a foreign country and this is an international agreement,� she said.

As for Birch Bay, committee members were concerned with both politics and piping.

Bonnie Onyon didn�t feel the Birch Bay community would be open to taking Blaine�s sewage, but Banham said there has been discussion with the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District about potential plans.

�We�ve had a lot of contact with them, and they are certainly willing to look at that,� he said. �It needs analysis.�

Sending sewage to Birch Bay could be phased out, if implemented. �It�s important to consider phasing out when looking at split plans (such as sending some sewage to Surrey, B.C. or Birch Bay). We have to eventually pull from using the West Blaine plant, because the city�s committed to it.�

Banham has previously said the city hopes to have a new plant up and running by 2008. The Lummi Nation plans to build a tribal heritage center on the current site of the treatment plant.

Jan Hrutfiord voiced concerns with piping into Birch Bay. �That�s an awful lot of piping through the community,� she said, noting money and time.

As for costs, there are estimates for each of the 13 alternatives, amounting from $2 million to $14 million.�At this point it�s kind of one of those things where you see your way through,� Banham said, noting the city has some general ideas for funding.

The next CWAC meeting is Wednesday, September 24 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall. For more details, visit

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