Snohomish could become Everett’s newest utility customer

  • Sun Jan 15th, 2012 9:37pm
  • News

By Debra Smith Herald Writer

EVERETT — The city of Everett is considering taking on one very large wastewater customer: the city of Snohomish.

The move would likely save Everett money.

It also would get Snohomish out of a multi-million dollar sewer plant upgrade it can’t afford or ignore. And even though Everett has its own plumbing problems, officials say the city should be able to handle the extra waste.

Snohomish officials would like to build a pipeline that would send wastewater and sewage to Everett for treatment at its plant.

The proposed pipeline would travel roughly parallel to the railroad tracks along the Lowell- Snohomish Road and cost Snohomish an estimated $40 million.

The entire project won’t cost Everett a dime.

In fact, the city would earn $1.2 million in annual revenue. It also would benefit by sharing some of its fixed costs, said public works director Dave Davis.

That cost-savings would be passed onto ratepayers in Everett, who could expect to pay $5 a month less than they would have otherwise.

Snohomish would have to pay a connection charge in the neighborhood of $12.5 million. Plus, Snohomish would be expected to pay for a portion of a planned expansion at Everett’s plant at another $4.6 million.

While that cost won’t be easy to bear, the Snohomish officials figure it makes more sense in the long-run than trying to build a new treatment plant or upgrade its old one.

Part of the problem is Snohomish can’t keep up with ever-tightening environmental regulations that require expensive upgrades to its plant.

The city was sued in 2002 for not meeting state and federal clean-water standards.

The result of that lawsuit is that the city has to fix the problems or risk fines.

The city of Everett has had its own problems with sewage. Taking on a new wholesale customer raises questions about whether Everett can handle more waste.

Everett has an older system in which stormwater and sewage share the same pipes in the north part of town. When heavy rain hits, stormwater can overwhelm the system, flushing rain water and untreated sewage directly into nearby waterways.

A series of rainy days just before Thanksgiving sent an estimated 25 million gallons of untreated wastewater and sewage into Port Gardner and the Snohomish River.

Around 100 smaller overflows happen in Everett each year, Davis said.

Everett should be able to handle Snohomish’s waste — except for very rare storm events, he said.

Everett already has several other wholesale customers, including the Silver Lake Water &Sewer District, which is more than three times as large as Snohomish.

Everett’s facility can handle up to 33 million gallons a day.

On an average wet month, the facility processes 30 million gallons a day. Snohomish would add around another 3 million gallons a day.

However, by the time the pipeline is hooked in sometime later this decade, the city should be finished with an expansion of its water pollution control facility. That would add 7 million gallons a day of capacity.

While that expansion doesn’t make the holding lagoon any bigger, it does increase the city’s ability to get more waste processed faster.

Everett also has the option of temporarily turning off the pipeline from Snohomish. In that event, Snohomish officials said they would still have a holding lagoon for that city’s waste.

The pipeline isn’t a done deal. Both city councils have to approve the final plan. The matter is expected to be in front of Everett leaders this spring.

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; dsmith@heraldnet.com