As the campaign season heats up, the effects of the new Brightwater sewage treatment plant, due to go online Sept. 24, have been the focus of some candidates for the. At the Sept. 20 board meeting, commissioner (candidate for re-election) read a letter to the district from Christie True, director of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.
In the letter (see PDF) True counters allegations from water district candidates that the presence of Brightwater means homeowners will be forced to hook up to a sewer line. The issue has been circulating in the community ever since Brightwater was proposed. It moved to the forefront of the campaign when a North Bend couple was billed $316,000 for a sewer line after their 9-acre parcel was assessed by the city based on a build-out of 24 houses on the lot, according to King5. Some Woodinville residents are concerned the same could happen here.
In her letter True writes: “While it is not WTD's policy to become involved in the elections of our customer agencies or to make candidate endorsements, we believe we have a responsibility to correct the misinformation about our utility that's currently being directed to voters. As a wholesale provider of regional wastewater treatment services, WTD will not, and in fact by law cannot, require Woodinville Water District customers to connect to the sanitary sewer system. Decisions about extending or expanding sewer service are made by local utilities and jurisdictions. WTD also does not direct local agencies to connect new sewer customers, as local sewer utilities have their own rules on connection requirements.”
The Woodinville Water District Board of Commissioners passed resolution no. 3725 (see PDF) on July 5, 2011 providing the requirements and rules for sewer hook-up. Section 2 states: “Consistent with RCW 57.08.005(9) which provides the District with statutory authority to compel property owners to connect to the District’s sewer system, a property owner may be required to connect the owner's premises to the District sewer system when a public health authority or land use authority with jurisdiction requires the connection of a property owner's premises to the District's sewer system or there is an overriding issue of public interest.”
Steeb said that under state law the board does have the authority to impose a sewer mandate but emphasized that it has no intention of doing so and added that the board cannot relinquish that authority under the law. Commissioner Ken Goodwin added that in the 16 years he has been on the board, the district had never forced any homeowner to hook up to a sewer line. Commissioner Tim Matson said he hopes the issue will now be put to rest.
Not everyone in Woodinville is convinced that the new sewer plant will not result in homeowners being forced to hook-up to sewers, despite what the county or water district state to the opposite.
Dale Knapinski of Woodinville commented on Patch: “Section 3 of 3725 refers only to time of connection. The District has no adopted resolution that prevents the District from forcing property owners to connect to the sewer, as a matter of fact, Section 2 of the adopted resolution states the District's position very clearly "...A property owner may be required to connect the owner's premises to the District's sewer system...(if) there is an overriding issue of public interest". The District's INTENT is not part of the adopted Resolution 3725, it is part of the narrative prior to the actual adopted resolution, and in my opinion, has no legal effect at all...it's just talk.”
Water district board candidates and contend that there is nothing prohibiting the county or the water district from forcing property owners to pay for a sewer line hook-up.
In his candidate profile, Stecker states, “Brightwater sewage treatment plant is coming on line - King County desperately needs a massive number of new hookups to cover outrageous cost over runs.”
True states in her letter, “In planning for new capacity, King County projects that most homes and businesses within the urban growth boundary will have sewer service within the next two decades. However, the exact timing is up to local jurisdictions and sewer agencies. Under state and local laws, all development within the urban growth area is to eventually be served by public sewer service, although onsite sewage treatment systems may be allowed temporarily in some parts of the urban growth area.
"New developments built within the urban growth area, or existing developments that undergo significant expansion and improvement, are likely to be required to connect to the sanitary sewer system if the development is located within a specified proximity to a public sewer as described under King County Code 13.24.136, or under the requirements of local sewer utilities or comprehensive plans. There is no truth to the assertion that everyone within 300 feet of a sanitary sewer system will automatically be required to connect to it.”
Will Woodinville property owners be forced to pay to for hooking up to a new sewer system once Brightwater is online? It seems only time will tell.