STANWOOD — Local businessmen have proposed a new plant downtown that would take in and treat waste from private septic tanks.
Opponents cite concerns about water quality, odors and locating the project in an area with known flood hazards. They’ve also raised worries about traffic, property values and potential negative effects on neighboring businesses. The property is in the downtown business district and sits in the floodplain of the Stillaguamish River.
The business partners who proposed the plant live on Camano Island. James McCafferty and Greg Gilday say few people have reached out. They researched safety and smell during design work and would like to share that information, McCafferty said.
A public meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at New View Church, 8028 272nd St. NW. It was planned by a group of volunteers worried about the project. It is not a city meeting.
The McDay Septage Receiving Plant and Biosolids Processing Facility would be at the south corner of 270th Street and 84th Avenue. Plans call for three open-top tanks, an office and control building, a driveway and a detention pond.
Everything would need to be above flood levels or designed to be submerged in water without failing. The tanks would be made of reinforced concrete supported by pilings, according to the plans. They also are considering closed-top tanks, McCafferty said.
The plant could accept roughly 40,000 gallons of raw waste from septic tanks a day, hauled in by 10 to 30 tanker trucks. The waste would be pretreated and stored in a 90,000-gallon tank. From there, it would be transferred to a smaller tank and treated with powdered quicklime. It would remain in the tank for about a day, then be moved to equipment that compresses and separates while heating the sludge to more than 160 degrees F. That system would be housed inside the control building.
About 60,000 gallons a day of wastewater would go into the city sewer system. The company would pay $230,000 a year in fees, according a city memo. Another 28,000 gallons of water would be used by the plant. The company would pay $48,000 a year for water use.
It would take three days to transform the waste from liquid to a dried final product that would be trucked out to a company that creates compost, McCafferty said.
Before the project can begin, it needs a state environmental review and multiple permits, including those for floodplain development and conditional use. The use permit will be subject to a public review before the city’s hearing examiner. A date has not been set.
A Facebook group, “People Against McDay Septage Receiving Facility,” was created last week and has hundreds of members.
People also have voiced concerns to the city Planning Commission, said Dianne White, planning commissioner and former mayor.
She shares her neighbors’ worries. During big floods, workers and volunteers often build a temporary dam across the railroad tracks downtown to keep water from reaching streets and businesses. If the dam gave way, “the first thing that would be hit would be the septage,” she said. “Can you imagine what it would mean if a wall of water hit that?”
She also worries about water consumption and odors. She called the proposal “beyond belief.”
“We’ve put so much blood, sweat and tears into building our community, and to have something like this come in, it’s just wrong,” she said.
Susan Ronken, another planning commissioner, said she’s been stopped in the grocery store by people wanting to talk. They’re worried about the potential for flood damage or leaks so close to the river and the business district with its restaurants and shops, she said.
“We need to take care of the businesses that are already there,” she said.
Cathy Wooten, who grew up in Stanwood and moved back to the area about 20 years ago, is concerned that odors could make it impossible for at least three restaurants within a block of the plant to use their popular outdoor seating. She also worries that odors could deteriorate air quality and potentially harm people with health conditions.
She’s urging locals to send written comments to the city with well-researched, objective information that can be considered by the hearing examiner. She said it might be easier to stop a project from starting than to halt a plant that’s operational.
The plant would handle waste from septic tanks on Camano Island and in rural Stanwood, McCafferty said. The floodplain isn’t the best location, “but that’s where Stanwood has its industrial land,” he said.
The timeline depends on permitting and environmental review. That’ll take at least six months.
A treatment plant is not expressly permitted or prohibited in an industrial zone, city planner Erick Aurand said. The conditional use request goes to the hearing examiner rather than the City Council or Planning Commission.
The McDay project still is early in the process. An initial review of the proposal is done and questions have been sent back to the applicants, Aurand said.
“It’s sort of in a holding pattern until they come back,” he said.
People can submit comments to the city at any point, he said.
“As somebody who has been on both sides of these issues, I am happy when the community gets involved,” he said. “The best decisions are made when there’s the most information.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact city planner Erick Aurand at email@example.com, 360-629-2181 ext. 4510.
Contact James McCafferty or Greg Gilday at McDay Stanwood@gmail.com, 360-548-8969.
Search “People Against McDay Septage Receiving facility” on Facebook.