BBWSD requests county help in expansion efforts
The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) is moving forward with a long-delayed project after Whatcom County Council unanimously agreed to apply for a $1 million grant to assist with funding on Tuesday night.
According to general manager Roger Brown, BBWSD requested Whatcom County to apply for the grant from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) general purpose program to assist with construction of a sanitary sewer system in the Birch Bay view neighborhood � an area that has 160 parcels, 126 of which are currently developed and served by on-site septic systems. The 40-acre neighborhood lies on a sloping hill and is located directly north of Birch Bay Village.
Discussion to construct sewer extensions in this neighborhood began in 1989, but efforts to finance the project � including the establishment of a local utility improvement district via a petition, never came to fruition. �Three different times there were attempts to do this � 1989, 1994 and 2003,� Brown said. �The original plat was put in in 1959, and it has never had sewers. About 75 to 80 percent of the property is developed.�
The lot sizes involved in this project are small and many of the current septic systems are more than 20 years old. A number of system failures have been reported to date, Brown said, adding poor soils and high seasonal water tables are not conditions that allow for safe operation of the systems.
Regarding the recent classification of Birch Bay as a threatened shellfish area by the Department of Health, the BBWSD states that �failing septic systems are generally recognized as a significant risk factor for deteriorating water quality,� in its written project proposal to the county. �In addition, septic systems are generally considered substandards within densely populated urban areas.�
The Birch Bay View neighborhood is located within the short-term planning area of the Birch Bay Urban Growth Area, as stated in the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan.
�The neighborhood is certainly nested in a rapidly developing area of the county,� Brown said. �There is a 3.5 percent annual growth rate here.� The department of health, Brown said, performed dye tests in all of the systems, and last tested the area in August.
�That is the driest time of the year and the fewest failures occur then,� Brown said. �The DOH found a four percent failure rate, but in reality that is probably higher. That equates to a significant amount of untreated wastewater flowing into the bay.�
The district estimates the total project costs will be $1,560,000, including construction, contingency, taxes and engineering. It is estimated the expansion efforts will require 10,000 lineal feet of 8x10 sanitary sewer pipe, manholes, six-inch side stubs to each lot and associated surface restoration.
�A large number of the property owners meet federal guidelines for low to moderate customers,� Brown said, enabling the BBWSD to possibly receive funding through the Office of Community Development (OCD) via the county.
The deadline for the grant application is November 20, and should the BBWSD receive the funding, it will be notified in February 2004.
�Following that announcement, the OCD will negotiate a grant agreement with the county, which takes about 90 days,� Brown said. �Also, during those 90 days, we can begin environmental work and start the design.�
The BBWSD is also applying for a public works trust fund, independent of the county block grant.
The project project completion date is mid-2005. �That�s for full service,� Brown added.
In a letter to the Whatcom County Council from the Birch Bay View Community (BBVC), the Birch Bay board of directors and grant team members state, �Sewer installation has been an issue with Birch Bay View Community for the past 10 years; however, the cost is unaffordable to our low and fixed income residents, who make 70 percent of our full-time population .... we are requesting our county council to endorse and support BBVC to obtain a general purpose grant ... to benefit our entire community by making sewer installation affordable. Sewer installation in BBVC will very likely decrease pollution in Birch Bay waters, and protect our shellfish growing area.�
Meg Grable, of the BBVC board of directors, told Whatcom County Council in a written statement that, �Ancient septic systems leak and poor quality of water travels down the hill both through the soil and through area ditched along Birch Point Road.�
The community has 197 full-time residents and about 75 summer/weekend residents.
The BBWSD next meets on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the Point Whitehorn facility in Birch Bay.