The Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District was originally formed in 1968 to replace individual septic systems in the Geneva community with a comprehensive sewage collection and conveyance system due to degradation of Lake Whatcom water quality from the septic systems. Since then, the District’s sewer system has expanded to serve Sudden Valley, as well as much of the development on the north shore of Lake Whatcom that is outside of Bellingham city limits. All sewage collected by the District is conveyed to the City of Bellingham’s sewer system, which is then conveyed to the City’s Post Point wastewater treatment plant located in Fairhaven for treatment prior to discharge to Bellingham Bay.
The City accepts the District’s sewage through an interlocal agreement between the two agencies. Through the terms of the agreement, the District “owns” 4.8% of the capacity of the Post Point plant, which ensures that the District has sufficient treatment capacity for full buildout of its service area. As a condition of ensuring this plant capacity, the agreement requires that the District be responsible for financing 4.8% of the costs of any major capital projects that the City undertakes at the plant.
In 2014, the City completed major upgrades to Post Point’s liquid treatment process to improve plant performance, meet current regulations, and increase capacity for the future. As part of the project, future upgrades to the solids treatment process were planned. Wastewater solids are currently incinerated (burned) at Post Point, which emits carbon dioxide (CO2) and other contaminants into the air. Incineration uses equipment installed in the 1970s that is expensive to maintain and repair, difficult to permit, and burns rather than recovers resources.
In 2017, planning work was resumed to determine the best way to update the solids treatment process. The City used an evaluation process that looked at several options and measured the environmental, social, financial, and technical benefits of each option. After gathering input from the community on options and the evaluation, the City decided to implement a digestion-based solution. Digestion essentially replicates what your stomach does to food, using microbes and heat to break down solids to produce biosolids and biogas. The City plans to transition to a process in which biosolids will be treated to meet the highest federal standards so they may be used to create a soil additive, like a fertilizer, for the community’s use.
For more information on this project, please click here to visit the City’s project page.
- Planning: 2019-2021
- Design: 2021-2023
- Construction: 2023-2025
The total project cost is estimated at $220 million. The District’s share is estimated at $10.6 million (4.8% of the total cost).
- No District-prepared reports have been generated to-date. Please refer to the City of Bellingham’s project website for all City-generated reports and technical memoranda.