Sunland considers going solo with sludge

The Sunland Water District is considering alternatives to contracting with the city of Sequim for its waste disposal.

At the water district commission's June 23 meeting, commissioners announced they were considering four options for the disposal of the 440-acre community's sludge.

One option is continuing with Sequim's services, but the other three involve expanding the community's existing treatment plant to handle the sludge, which concerns some


The treatment plant could treat the biosolids to be hauled to outside disposal sites, sprayed on empty Sunland property near Division 17, or it could be treated in such a way they could be reused locally as a fertilizing product similar to what currently is done by the city of Tacoma.

"We have to upgrade our system anyway," Commissioner Pepper Putnam said.

Putnam said it costs 10 cents a gallon to take the sludge to Sequim. The community generates 100,000 gallons of sewage a day and spent $45,000 on removal last year, water district manager Mike Langley said.

The current treatment system is spread over 22 acres and uses reclaimed water to irrigate pasture land adjacent to the treatment plant, according to the Department of Ecology. Solids are separated from liquids and the resulting sludge is transported to

Sequim for further treatment. It also utilizes a lagoon where inadequately treated waste is stored. Ecology has pushed for the removal of sludge from the lagoon, according to minutes from the June 23 meeting.

At the meeting, Putnam said the goal of the commission is to provide a long-term solution to biosolids management at an affordable cost and without dependence on an outside entity.

Bob Rhodes, who lives in Division 17, is concerned that the option of treating and spraying sludge on site could diminish property values and expose residents to health risks.

"My view of the world and those of my neighbors working with me on this is different than the commissioners," he said. "They're quick to point out no decisions have been made but they've come on the record saying they want to come up with a solution not dependent on any outside entity."

Rhodes, who has lived in Sunland for five years,

said he doesn't see why Sunland should spend money duplicating efforts that could be handled by Sequim.

Sequim Public Works Manager Paul Haines said the recently expanded treatment plant in Sequim allows the city to offer more services to outside entities.

"With the current expansion we have some available capacity," he said. "If others are in need of it, we can be a resource for that."

The Aug. 23 meeting of the Sequim City Council included discussion about offering expanded services. The council voted unanimously to direct city staff to spend time pursuing discussions with interested parties. Councilors expressed the desire to fully utilize the new system with outside entities.

If Sequim offers an opportunity to continue the sludge treatment with Sunland, the urgency to find alternatives lessens, Commissioner Jim Larison said. The Sunland Water District Commission is looking at the options and considering cost, convenience and reliability as well as not having a negative impact on residents, he said.

"We're not even close to the stage of making a decision," Putnam said.

Amanda Winters can be reached at

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