More on What Runs Downhill in McCormick Woods

I thought I’d call out a comment on my recent story about Port Orchard’s sewer and water rate increases related to the recent McCormick Woods annexation.

BlueLight said:
Here’s the way I understand it: The houses in McCormick Woods are on a “stepped” sewer system, which is – basically – a hybrid between onsite septic and municipal wastewater. Each home has a septic tank, but instead of drainfields these tanks pump to the municipal system. Prior to annexation, the City of Port Orchard serviced this system; responding to pump failures, etc. The City also pumped each holding tank – I believe – every five years. This is what the surcharge paid for. Obviously, this design is is more labor and cost intensive to operate than the purely municipal type system throughout the rest of the city. One could easily say that – as a result of annexation – the homeowners in McCormick Woods managed to have residents in the other parts of P.O. assume the cost of pumping their septic tanks.

I replied:
BlueLight – Regarding your comments on McWoods STEP (septic tank effluent pumping system), it is not correct to say the surcharge was assessed to pay for the pumping/maintenance of septic systems in McCormick Woods. What I apparently did not make clear in the article is that all South Kitsap residents who live outside Port Orchard but access its sewer system pay the 50 percent surcharge, not just McWoods residents. The McWoods sewer surcharge, totaling about $200,000 a year, goes (or went) toward the city’s total sewer budget.

You are correct that the city is responsible for inspecting and (if needed) pumping the septic tanks of McWoods homes, under an agreement between Kitsap County and McWoods developers when ULID 6 was formed.

Since the sewer line went in, liquid waste from McWoods has been diverted from a communal drain field to the sewer line that runs along Old Clifton Road and eventually to the sewer treatment plant operated jointly by Port Orchard and Westsound Utility District. The solid waste is processed through on-site septic tanks that, like such tanks everywhere, require periodic inspection and maintenance.

Under the ULID 6 agreement, the city inherited the responsibility for maintaining those septic systems. That is unique to McWoods. The city takes care of 605 McWoods septics; that’s 133 per year on a rotating basis, which costs the city $72,000 a year.

While the surcharge was in effect, the revenue generated ($200,000) more than made up for the septic service cost ($72,000), said Public Works Director Mark Dorsey. So in essence, McWoods residents, while they were paying the surcharge, were subsidizing city residents’ sewer service to the tune of $128,000 per year.

Dorsey said the McWoods surcharge, which was significant, actually helped keep rates down for city residents. Now everyone, including those in McWoods, have to share in picking up that lost revenue.

The council will be discussing McWoods sewers at its work study meeting, Tuesday. The meeting is open to the public, but comments from the audience are taken at the discretion of the council, unlike at a regular council meeting, where the public always gets a chance to speak.

Hope this helps. Chris Henry, SK/ Government reporter

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