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Port, city strike a deal for sewage handling

The Port of Bremerton, anxious to avoid a possible disaster down the line, is now working out a plan with Port Orchard that would eventually let its properties hook up to the city’s sewer system.

The port currently handles its own sewage through a series of treatment ponds. Although the port and its tenants only use about 20 percent of the system’s capacity at present, the system is expected to be overburdened in four to six years, thanks to expectations of booming growth.

“Since the day I was elected, I’ve been trying to get sewers out there,” said port commissioner Mary Ann Huntington. “You can’t grow very much with the systems we have out there.

The treatment ponds effectively serve as a type of huge septic system that breaks the sewage down through natural processes and then recycles the effluent back into the ground via huge drainage fields. Port officials say the system has more than enough capacity for the waste generated by port employees.

However, the port-owned industrial park and the rest of the South Kitsap Industrial Area will be expected to support more than 9,300 industry jobs by 2017, according to the Kitsap County comprehensive plan. This means an increase of more than 8,500 jobs from 1997 levels — the last time an official count was made.

If the city builds a sewer link to the port property within the next few years, any businesses that decide to build within SKIA will have a pre-existing sewer system to link up with, making it easier to get permitting approval.

“We literally need to start planning for that now,” said port spokesman Ken Attebery.

The negotiations which the city and the port are now in the middle of are largely formalities that need to be worked out before the county will put its stamp of approval on the project, Attebery said.

The city has actually planned to become the port’s sewer provider for some time. The proposal was included in the city’s 2000 sewer comprehensive plan.

Bremerton was considered as a possible provider at one point, but Port Orchard was seen as a smarter choice. The city’s existing sewer system is much closer to the port properties than Bremerton’s is. In addition, the city is presently expanding the capacity of the sewer main heading west of the city into McCormick Woods — the same main which would one day serve SKIA and the port. This would lessen the port’s capital costs, because they would not have to pay for the upgrade themselves.

“We’re just taking advantage of the most economical service provider,” Attebery said.

Many details have yet to be worked out. The city has not yet started talks on any rate structure, and the two entities still must decide who will pay for the pipe extension out to the port’s pump station by the airport.

What is established, however, is that the city will take over ownership of the port’s existing sewer pipes as the port becomes a customer of the Port Orchard Sewer District. The port will no longer serve as a sewer provider for its tenants, which port officials say they won’t mind at all.

“They’ll essentially do what we’re doing right now,” Attebery said. “The port and the other landowners in the area will simply become customers of the city.”

Because the extension to the port was included in the city’s sewer comprehensive plan, the designs for both the sewage treatment plant expansion and the sewer main upgrade took the extra sewage into account. As a result, sewer officials said, there will be no rate increases — even when the port’s waste is added to the city’s system.

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