If you’re a customer of the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District or a resident of the City of Issaquah, you should be aware of potential changes to where your water comes from, who provides your service and potential impacts to water quality. For generations, the District has provided clean drinking water to tens of thousands of customers. Issaquah residents have also benefited from the District’s vigilance protecting the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer, the vital resource on which we depend for our clean drinking water.
Some leaders in the City of Issaquah are considering a dramatic change to who manages this water resource that could impact the purity and cost of your water. This decision is too important to take place behind closed doors. You need to be in the room.
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Like all growing urban areas, the City of Issaquah is faced with the challenge of managing stormwater runoff, specifically from the Issaquah Highlands. The Lower Reid Infiltration Gallery (LRIG) is a stormwater infiltration facility created for this purpose. Unfortunately, this stormwater is contaminated with heavy metals and fecal coliform. The City is looking at two options for disposing of the contaminated runoff: either injecting this untreated stormwater into the ground through the LRIG injection well, within feet of or directly into the aquifer, or allowing it to flow directly into the North Fork of Issaquah Creek and Lake Sammamish.
Two Options, Two Problems
There are problems with both choices. Simply allowing stormwater to flow over the surface and into streams and lakes causes a problem because these levels of iron and fecal coliform can impact stream and lake ecosystems. The option of injecting the water into the ground may sound appealing – out of sight, out of mind. But the reality is that this contaminated water would be injected into the ground just above or directly into the aquifer and within 600 feet uphill of the wells that have provided us with nearly half of our groundwater supply for decades.
There are differences of opinion between the District and Issaquah on whether injecting this stormwater into the ground will ultimately contaminate the aquifer and these wells. Studies conducted by the District show that if the water is injected, it could be a matter of days before contaminated water reaches the aquifer and the District’s wells. The impact on the aquifer affects both District customers and Issaquah residents, since both rely on the aquifer for clean drinking water. The District’s objective is to continue discussions that will protect this water resource and arrive at a solution that will be in the best interests of its customers and Issaquah residents who depend on a clean aquifer.
The Third and Best Option: Clean the stormwater to protect the aquifer.
In 2011, Issaquah drafted a white paper to look at their options for managing the stormwater runoff to the LRIG injection well as well as addressing the District’s concerns about groundwater pollution. They determined that there were five. One option was to actively treat and clean the stormwater before injecting it. If the water could be treated to the same purity standards as the untouched aquifer, this would be the logical choice. State law requires no activities be implemented that will degrade the aquifer. But if the stormwater treatment cannot meet those purity standards, and many believe that it can’t, then it should not be injected. There simply is not enough soil between the LRIG and the aquifer to adequately filter out all the fecal coliform and bacteria. Given how much is at stake, the District wants to keep the dialog open until there is a solution that works universally.
Instead of cleaning the water, the City is considering spending $1,500,000 to assume – or take over – the District’s wells and customers within the City’s boundaries, essentially removing the District’s ability to enforce water quality standards. The proposed assumption would require physical separation of the water and sewer infrastructure, currently owned and operated by the District, to isolate the remaining portion of the District from the assumption area. This essentially means that the City will take over all customer accounts, water and sewer infrastructure and the three production wells that fall inside the City’s boundaries. These are the same wells that are close to the LRIG injection well site where Issaquah plans to inject contaminated stormwater underground.
What’s At Stake? Water Quality and Cost
Along with impacting water quality, this decision could add significantly to the cost of your water. If the wells do become polluted, this would require that more of our water come from the regional surface water supply or require expensive treatment. Both of these realities would cost more—potentially a lot more. This essentially means that the City of Issaquah can lower the standards and degrade the water, but it’s the District ratepayers who will bear the cost and lose their clean well water. Added to this will be the costly process of assumption that Issaquah customers will have to bear down the road.
The system isn’t broken.
The District has been a responsible steward of this water resource for over 60 years. From our start in 1948, we now serve an area of 29 square miles and provide clean, affordable drinking water to over 54,000 people.
We know water. We understand the delicate relationship between the aquifer and the quality of your water. We know the system and have invested customer payments solely toward the safe delivery of this resource for now and in the future. And we believe in looking for a solution that protects the aquifer and requires responsible stormwater management.
For Klahanie Residents
The City of Issaquah is studying annexing the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area (PAA) into the city. This area includes Klahanie as well as twelve smaller neighborhoods. Issaquah has stated that annexation in itself makes no change to water and sewer service. Yet Issaquah's Draft Water System Plan has the Klahanie PAA listed in its future retail service area. Please review this fact sheet for more information.
Read for yourself! Issaquah's Water System Plan Update was presented at the February 4, 2013 Issaquah City Council meeting. Please note that this is a large file and may take a minute or two to download. Read the third paragraph of Section 2.1, "Retail Service Area" on page 50. Then go to Figure 2.3 on page 56 for a map of the Future Retail Service Area, and note that Klahanie is the large triangle near the top of the map. Go to Section 3.6.2 on pages 94 and 95 for a discussion of assumptions of other jurisdictions.
This is your water. Who do you want managing it?
Who do you want managing your water? There are strong differences of opinions on the best course to take. We feel the best decisions come from an open dialog when everyone contributes to the conversation.
What You Can Do
In the coming weeks, important decisions will be made. We hope that you will become better informed about this debate and participate in the conversation. You can email District commissioners, city council members, write a Letter to the Editor or make comments at city council meetings. Watch this site each week for updates on important council meetings to attend.
Who you can contact:
This is the city pushing for assumption and injecting stormwater into the aquifer. They need to hear where you stand.
Contact the Issaquah City Council members via email or at City Council Meetings. Meetings are held the first and third Monday at 7:00 pm at the Council Chambers, 135 E. Sunset Way in Issaquah. See schedule
Watch the Issaquah City Council meetings to hear public comments about this issue. You can access the City Council proceedings via ICTV by going to the following link: http://issaquahwa.gov/index.aspx?NID=277. You can then go to the May 6 and May 20 meeting dates for more information. For each meeting, you can move the slider bar at the bottom to go directly to comments and presentations:
May 6: The audience comments in support of our position start at 3:05. The mayor's comments begin at 47:15.
May 20: The audience comments in support of our position start at 2:59. The LRIG presentation by Dan Irvin of RH2 Consulting, Issaquah's consultant for the project, start at 33:54.
If Issaquah is successful, Sammamish city residents’ water source can change from clean well water to more expensive surface reservoir water.
Contact Sammamish City Council members via email or at City Council Meetings.
Meetings are every first Tuesday and third Monday at 6:30PM. See schedule
City Hall: 801 228th Ave. SE, Sammamish
Watch the Sammamish City Council meetings by clicking here. Then select "Click to view the latest meeting" to select which meeting you wish to view. The May 20 meeting has audience comments and a presentation by Issaquah's consultant, with city council member comments afterwards.
Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District Commissioners
The District has been an advocate for clean, sustainable water for over 60 years. Contact the Commissioners and let them know if you support their efforts.
For more information, call or email Janet Sailer, Planning and Outreach Coordinator:
425-392-6256, ext. 204
District Commissioner Meetings—First, second and third Mondays at 3:00PM
1510 228th Ave SE, Sammamish, WA 98075
Department of Ecology
Contact Gerald Shervey at the Department of Ecology and let him know if you think injecting contaminated stormwater into the source of your drinking water is a good idea. See the Department of Ecology website for additional information.
Letters to the Editor
Keep it brief and to the point. Maximum, 300 words.
You are required to provide your name and city of residence.