One might think providing water and sewer service in a community would be routine. Water production is not glamorous and sewer treatment doesn’t exactly make exciting front page news very often. These processes seem fairly routine, but in reality; the local water and sewer provider (whether a special purpose district like Lakehaven or a local city or county) literally allow our communities to be the thriving places they are.
I would like to dive a little deeper into what Lakehaven sees when it looks to the future. One important priority is to ensure we use technology and science to provide water and sewer service on the most environmentally sound and efficient basis possible. One such challenge to our staff is that of improving the quality of the wastewater effluent discharged into Puget Sound.
As any of you that have toured a wastewater treatment plant know, wastewater plants do an amazing job of cleaning up our wastewater. Our sewer plants remove solids and pathogens every day, but they are not designed to remove nitrogen. With an ever-growing population in the area, the levels of nitrogen being emitted by all the sewer plants that discharge into Puget Sound have increased.
One might ask what the big deal is about nitrogen? It occurs naturally in Puget Sound and marine life needs some amount of nitrogen to survive. The answer is that, just like anything, too much of a good thing can actually be harmful. While it is true that marine life needs nitrogen to survive, too much nitrogen also displaces the oxygen that marine life needs as well.
The Washington State Department of Ecology has been mandated under the Federal Clean Water Act to study and monitor the levels of nitrogen in Puget Sound. Currently there is no federal mandate that sewer plants discharging into Puget Sound remove nitrogen. It is believed, however, that this could change and nitrogen removal could become a requirement in the future.
At Lakehaven, our staff is currently exploring ways of removing nitrogen from the wastewater stream. While projects like this are “long lead” items, they are best implemented with careful analysis of the alternatives at the outset. Ultimately removing nitrogen will require major, and, I might add, expensive upgrades and process changes to our two sewer plants. We will be keeping our eyes and ears open for new technologies that will help us meet the challenges of keeping our environment safe and healthy for marine life (and to do all that in the most efficient manner possible).
The next time you see our vehicles out in the community, rest assured that Lakehaven is looking to keep ahead of the curve and plan for changes before the law requires them. Our goal continues to focus on providing reliable, efficient and affordable water and sewer services and to make our community part of the solution to a brighter future for the Puget Sound.