War over waterworks

May 14, 2013

Fears of pollution, seizure spark utility outcry

By Peter Clark Janet Sailer, communications manager for the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, stands at a storm water collection pond in the Lower Reid Infiltration Gallery in the Issaquah Highlands.

By Peter Clark
Janet Sailer, communications manager for the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, stands at a storm water collection pond in the Lower Reid Infiltration Gallery in the Issaquah Highlands.

A dispute flared into the public eye May 6 as city officials and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District sparred over storm water pollution and Issaquah’s intentions to take over principal wells owned by the district.

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Plan for Issaquah stormwater angers water district

May 7, 2013

By Keith Ervin

Seattle Times staff reporter

More than a decade and a half after construction began on the 7,000-resident Issaquah Highlands community, renewed conflict has erupted over how to handle the stormwater it generates.

The state Department of Ecology is on track to allow treatment of the water by filtering it through sand and gravel above an aquifer that provides drinking water to tens of thousands of area residents.

Officials at Ecology and the city of Issaquah say the plan — envisioned for years — is a safe, proven way of replenishing the aquifer and removing potentially harmful bacteria.

But the area’s largest water provider, the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, wants contaminants including fecal coliform removed before the water goes into the ground.

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Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District freezes some salaries

November 20, 2012

Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District leaders froze managers’ salaries for the foreseeable future under a new pay structure adopted Oct. 15.

The change came after a study of the agency’s compensation by Issaquah-based consultant Prothman Group. The results showed top-end salaries of the water district’s management were 12 percent to 17 percent higher than the average in several positions, compared to employees at other Puget Sound utilities and cities.

The new structure, approved by the district board of commissioners, brings those salary ranges within a percentage point or two of the typical average.

But, instead of cutting salaries, the new wage plan calls for those managers above the average to have their salary frozen until annual cost of living increases or market factors raise their position’s salary range to the employee’s current salary — $133,778 for three managers at the top of the pay scale.

City considers overseeing water, sewer service for all Issaquah residents

June 26, 2012

City and Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District officials could end up at loggerheads as the city embarks on a study to assume water and sewer service for the portion of district customers inside Issaquah city limits.

Issaquah officials budgeted $300,000 to study expanded utility service for the entire city. State law encourages municipalities to assume utility services in neighborhoods located inside city limits.

City officials said such a changeover could reduce confusion among customers and enable municipal government to better manage the water and sewer system inside city limits.

Such a change could lead to a showdown between the city and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, because the district is bound to shed hundreds of ratepayers if the city expands water and sewer service to all Issaquah residents.

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King County increases 2013 sewer rate

June 19, 2012

King County Council members hiked the sewer rate for 2013 to $39.79 a month per residential customer.

The rate increase approved by the council June 11 is less than the $39.85 rate King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed in April. Officials intend to keep the same rate in 2014.

The county charges the rate to 34 cities and sewer districts, including Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, to carry and treat wastewater. The amount ratepayers see on bills depends on local sewer utilities. Jurisdictions set rates independently, but typically pass along such costs to customers.

Officials focused on reduced operating costs in announcing the rate increase. Read more

King County Council increases 2013 sewer rate

June 11, 2012

NEW — 4 p.m. June 11, 2012

King County Council members hiked the sewer rate for 2013 to $39.79 a month per residential customer.

The rate increase approved by the council Monday is less than the $39.85 rate King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed in April. Officials intend to keep the same rate in 2014.

The county charges the rate to 34 cities and sewer districts, including Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, to carry and treat wastewater. The amount ratepayers see on bills depends on local sewer utilities. Jurisdictions set rates independently, but typically pass along such costs to customers.

Officials focused on reduced operating costs in announcing the rate increase.

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Overdale Park residents face steep fee to resolve water problems

April 17, 2012

Overdale Park homeowners could pay about $15,000 per household to change water utility providers — a transition meant to eliminate years-old concerns about arsenic contamination and fire protection.

The hillside neighborhood near the former Albertsons store in North Issaquah is involved in a process to integrate into the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District. The next step is to create a special district for Overdale homeowners to fund $1.1 million in improvements to the aging water infrastructure in the neighborhood.

The decisions to shift Overdale into the district and upgrade infrastructure came after officials discovered arsenic contamination in a well near East Lake Sammamish Parkway. The other Overdale well could no longer meet residents’ demand after decades of use. The neighborhood includes about 140 residences.

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Press Editorial

April 3, 2012

Revised water rates reject values

The Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District’s new rate structure has taken a giant step backward.

Previously, the rates had been set up so that those who use the most water pay a higher rate. Now the tiers in the rate structure have been flattened – meaning a roughly 6 percent cut in water bills to those who use the most.

Swimming pool or hot tub? Farm animals to feed? No problem, no surcharge for extra water. Same rate for everybody — in fact, please use more!

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Some Issaquah customers could pay more for water, sewer

March 27, 2012

Overhauling the rate structure for the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District could help stabilize the revenues from year to year at the expense of lowering the financial incentive for water conservation.

The revised rate structure could mean a 17.1 percent hike for sewer service and 8.6 percent increase in the cost of water for the average single-family home. The increased rates could help make up a more than $2.3 million deficit in the district budget.

The district is investing in updated pipes, pumps and other infrastructure to accommodate growth, but revenue is falling due to lower water consumption by customers.

The average home in the district uses about 1,400 cubic feet of water in a two-month period and could pay a water bill of $68.98 under the overhauled rate structure — up from $63.50 under current rates. The rise in sewer could be more drastic, from $42.96 every two months for the average homeowner to $50.34 for the same period.

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City, Cascade Water Alliance mail toilet leak detection kits

March 13, 2012

National Fix A Leak Week runs until March 18 and to mark the occasion the Cascade Water Alliance and Issaquah municipal government mailed toilet leak detection kits to homes in Issaquah and elsewhere.

The average home can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year due to running toilets, dripping faucets and other household leaks. The results: wasted water and pricier water bills.

“According to the U.S. EPA, household leaks from toilets, faucets and showerheads waste 1 trillion gallons of water each year nationwide,” said Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler, a Cascade Water Alliance Board member. “This drives up utility operating costs and places unnecessary strain on water and wastewater infrastructure. Finding and fixing leaking toilets is a great way to conserve our valuable water resources.”

Mailers should start to reach almost 100,000 homes throughout the Eastside and South King County in the days ahead. The kits include dye strips and simple instructions to check toilets for leaks.

The regional alliance includes the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, Issaquah and Bellevue, plus other Eastside and South King County cities and water districts.

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