Brightwater costs already up

New Snohomish County sewer ratepayers will help foot the bill for a jump in the cost of the planned Brightwater treatment plant.

The plant’s estimated cost has been increased from $1.48 billion to $1.62 billion, an increase of $138 million, King County announced Monday.

Inflation, a spike in prices for construction materials and increased mitigation payments – including $70 million to Snohomish County – are responsible for the rise in costs, officials said.

The Brightwater plant on Highway 9 near Maltby will treat sewage from both counties. Sewage from most of south Snohomish County, roughly from Highway 99 east, is sent to King County for treatment.

King County is expected to reach capacity at its two current treatment plants by 2010, the target date for completion of Brightwater. Work will begin this year on conveyance tunnels, said Don Theiler, wastewater treatment division.

A connection charge for new users of the system in both counties will finance the plant. A charge has been assessed for new connections since the early ’90s as a way to get development to pay for itself, officials said.

The cost for new hookups was increased Jan. 1 to $34.05 per month for 15 years, nearly a 50 percent increase, with all of it going to Brightwater, Theiler said.

It’s likely that the charge will be increased for future users to cover the latest increase, Theiler said.

“It probably will but exactly how much we can’t tell at this point,” he said. Existing users will continue to pay the rate at which they started for the duration of the 15 years.

King County is slated to pay out $138.5 million to local governments for road improvements, environmental projects, landscaping, screening and odor control around the 114-acre Brightwater plant.

The $70 million for Snohomish County will be used for parks, roads, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and fish protection near the plant. The money will be paid gradually as King County gets the permits it needs from Snohomish County.

Construction commodity prices and inflation were largely driven by a construction boom in China, the conflict in Iraq, higher crude oil prices and hurricane damage in the southeastern United States, according to county officials.

On the positive side, King County has saved more than $190 million on the project through engineering reviews and design refinements, officials said.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or

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