Year in Review: Birch Bay Water and Sewer District

Published on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 by Emily Resch, program coordinator

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In 2013, the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District started construction on the Headworks Replacement Project to increase capacity at the wastewater treatment plant. This project, which should be completed in 2014, is supported by a Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF) loan. PWTF loans will become increasingly more difficult to obtain in the future as Washington state legislators used the PWTF program balances to fund other priorities in the state budget. Now largely unavailable, this program was a highly successful way for local governments to obtain low-interest financing.

The district reconvened the water citizen’s advisory team (WaterCAT) in the second half of 2013. The district held four meetings to allow the group to review and provide recommendations on current district issues.

The district continues to take steps to improve the efficiency of the wastewater treatment plant. Efficiency improvements thus far have allowed the district to switch from potable water to recycled water for its chlorination system, which helps regulate bacterial growth within the plant. The district also heats and cools its buildings with heat pumps that use the plant’s effluent as their energy source. Currently, the district is the only wastewater treatment plant in Whatcom County utilizing its plant effluent in this manner. Operational changes and lighting efficiency upgrades, such as replacing old fixtures and bulbs with LED lighting, have also had positive impacts. As a result, the district has reduced its energy consumption by 27,000 kilowatt hours per month since 2007 – enough to generate electricity for 26 homes. Potable water consumption was reduced by 90 percent, saving 4 million gallons a year.

The district was awarded its fourth consecutive Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award for the year 2012 by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Birch Bay is one of only two wastewater plants in Whatcom County serving 4,000 people or more that have won the award 11 or more times in the last 17 years.

The district and the city of Blaine were also awarded second place in the northwest subsection of the American Waterworks Associations 2013 Best Tasting Water Contest. The water was tasted by a panel of three judges who sampled water from a total of 14 water purveyors in the Northwest Washington region.

The district continued active membership in the Whatcom Water Alliance, a regional water conservation group seeking to promote water conservation among local government water purveyors by coordinating public information efforts and related activities. For 2013, members agreed to support a voluntary odd-even watering schedule to reduce summer outdoor water usage and support rain barrels as a conservation activity.