Port Gamble sewage plant to protect shellfish, recharge groundwater

The historic town of Port Gamble is about to get a new-fangled sewage-treatment plant, one that will allow highly treated effluent to recharge the groundwater in North Kitsap.

Port Gamble

The old treatment plant discharges its effluent into Hood Canal, causing the closure of about 90 acres of shellfish beds. After the new plant is in operation, those shellfish beds are likely to be reopened, officials say.

The new facility will be built and operated by Kitsap Public Utility District, which owns and manages small water systems throughout the county. The Port Gamble plant will be the first wastewater operation to be managed by the KPUD, which views the project as a step toward reclaiming more of Kitsap County’s wastewater by putting it to beneficial use, said manager Bob Hunter.

The PUD already manages the Port Gamble water system, which will undergo a future renovation, he said. Dealing with the community’s sewage is the next logical step.

“Nobody can do reclaimed water without the sewage-treatment part of the equation,” Bob told me, “and it seems potentially more efficient to have one entity do it.”

In a related development, the district is expected to ask Kitsap County voters for authority to own the plant as well as operate it. Under its current authority, the district can own water utilities but not sewer utilities.

A $2-million state grant to eliminate the discharge of sewage into Hood Canal requires that a public entity own the sewer system. To comply with that requirement, Mason County PUD 1 will take over ownership until Kitsap PUD obtains the needed authority, Bob noted.

The KPUD commissioners are expected to decide on Tuesday whether to place a measure on November’s ballot. Hunter said he doesn’t expect opposition, but he hopes to address any concerns people may have. The commissioners meet at 9:30 a.m. in their Poulsbo office.

The new treatment plant will be a membrane bioreactor, a type of filtering system capable of producing effluent close to the quality of drinking water. The plant, which comes assembled, will treat up to 100,000 gallons of sewage per day. That’s enough capacity to serve the existing homes in Port Gamble. And if the town’s redevelopment is approved (Kitsap Sun, Jan. 24, 2013), as proposed by owner Pope Resources, the plant could serve up to 350 homes — provided the old sewer pipes are replaced to reduce the amount of stormwater that leaks in.

The plant will be located on 1.3 acres near Carver Drive, south of Highway 104. Effluent will be pumped to a new drainfield at the top of a nearby hill. Eventually, water from the plant could be used to irrigate forestland or else lawns and ballfields in the town.

Construction is expected to get underway soon, with the system operational by May of next year. The entire project, including the treatment plant, pumping system, pipes, drainfield and site work, is expected to cost $5 million with most of the cost paid by Pope Resources.

The KPUD has no plans to operate other sewer systems at this time, Hunter said, but the district hopes to be in a position to respond to community needs, as it as done with failing water systems. Small sewage-treatment plants could be feasible where a lot of septic systems are failing, he noted, but state law precludes the use of sewers in rural areas except during a health emergency. Even then, the systems must serve only existing needs, not future growth, he noted.

Without snowpack, Kitsap Peninsula is entirely dependent on the amount of rain that falls on the peninsula. With limited storage, future water supplies can be bolstered by recharging the groundwater with high-quality sewage effluent or by using effluent to replace drinking water used for irrigation and industrial processes.

The Central Kitsap Wastewater Treatment Plant, which produces an average 3.2 million gallons of water each day, is undergoing a major upgrade to produce water that can be used for a variety of uses in nearby Silverdale. In preparation, Silverdale Water District has been installing a new piping network to bring the reclaimed water into the community.

“We have been talking for a long time about getting water into the ground instead of dumping it into Puget Sound or Hood Canal,” said Bob Hunter. “With this project in Port Gamble, we can learn and be prepared when other situations come along.”

5 thoughts on “Port Gamble sewage plant to protect shellfish, recharge groundwater

  1. Great news! Stopping the pumping of sewage, treated or not, into the Salish Sea is a way forward that might actually, eventually, clean this body of water up. While a small scale effort, it hopefully will be a project that can be pointed to by other communities.

  2. Criss, It really bothers me that with the big push for alternate energy, no one has mentioned the great potential energy that is not being tapped by the tidal currents in narrow places in Puget Sound. Mite this be an area that a PUD could tap? Considering the volume of water moving into and out of the sound twice a day, I seems to me the potential would be far greater than the Columbia river.

    1. Snohomish County Public Utility District conducted studies on tidal energy in Admiralty Inlet. In the end, the PUD decided the costs were too great for the benefits. See information on the PUD website.

      When I first wrote about this issue in Water Ways in 2008, I compared the PUD to a prospector staking his claims to sites with potential to make money.

      When I next visited the issue in 2011, I called it lunar energy, because the tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon.

      I also wrote about the project last year, when it was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Corporation but before the PUD pulled the plug.

      Some environmentalists were worried about the project’s effects on whales and other marine mammals, but I don’t know if that played into the PUD’s decision to abandon the effort.

    1. Most sewage-treatment plants discharge into a waterway. It is only with advanced treatment that you get highly treated effluent for beneficial use, such as irrigation.

      It is kind of interesting that the new Port Gamble plant will discharge into a drainfield, considering that the water could be used for irrigation. Because of volume, most large treatment plants could not find enough land to discharge into a drainfield even if they wanted to.

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