Sequim accepts state water reclamation grant

Declaring they were satisfied the city would retain ownership of its reclaimed water, the

Sequim City Council voted unanimously last week to accept a $1.1 million state grant for expanding the city's water reclamation site and distribution system.

The city must contribute a 25 percent match, or $275,817, to receive the grant.

"I was vocal during the last meeting but I'm satisfied now, so go ahead," said City Councilor Bill Huizinga.

Other councilors echoed that assessment following a 30-minute executive session with city attorney Craig Ritchie at an Aug. 27 special meeting to review the grant's language.

The special meeting was necessary because the grant expired Aug. 31 if the city did not accept the money and Ritchie was on vacation during the Aug. 25 city council meeting. He joined the executive session by telephone.

The city needs to expand the water reclamation site.

But several councilors feared accepting the state's money for the expensive project would require the city to use the additional water for groundwater recharge instead of the city's own uses.

"Water is our most precious asset. Getting any more water rights is a thing of the past," said City Councilor Walt Schubert.

"The city uses its reclaimed water for the city's infrastructure. This water should be for the benefit of Sequim and not given away hastily. I am convinced now that we will retain ownership of the reclaimed water," he said.

Mayor Laura Dubois said she was going to vote for the motion for many of the same reasons.

"We will retain ownership of the water and that's not going to be a problem," she said, before asking where the city was getting the $275,817 for the grant match.

Administrative services director Karen Goschen said the money would come from the city's sewer restricted fund.

City Councilor Paul McHugh said he appreciated receiving the city attorney's assurances that he needed.

At the Aug. 25 city council meeting, acting Public Works director Bill Bullock told the council the grant was awarded in February but the city had had questions about it for the past six months.

The first letter to Ecology regarding the city's concerns was sent June 9 and the answer was received July 11, he said.

As a condition of upgrading the water reclamation site, the state Department of Health required a feasibility study of possible upland uses for the reclaimed water generated by the upgrade.

The study would include evaluating sites and alternatives for reclaimed water application and hydrogeological studies to determine possible sites for applying the reclaimed water. It also would identify required permits as well as provide cost estimates and preliminary engineering.

The city operates a water reclamation plant that produces about 627,000 gallons daily of "Class A" water, the highest class of reclaimed water.

It has had organic, inorganic and biological impurities removed but still is not approved as drinking water.

The city uses reclaimed water to irrigate the Reuse Demonstration Park and the majority of Carrie Blake Park, plus street landscaping on Bell Street and remote irrigation by truck throughout the city.

The reclaimed water demonstration site also supplies reclaimed water to the city fishpond and stream augmentation to Bell Creek. It also supplies water for public toilets, street sweeping and two commercial users.

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