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 by equipment installed in the 1970s that has reached the end of its useful life.
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 in 2019 (referred to as the Post Point Resource Recovery Project).. However, as permitting and design progressed, estimated project costs escalated significantly, which resulted in public concern related to overall city sewer rate impacts. In addition, public concern was also voiced regarding the potential presence of contaminants in the treated solids end product and its ultimate disposal. As a result, Mayor Fleetwood announced on August 29, 2022, his intention to halt work on the Resource Recovery Project and refocus efforts on performing necessary improvements to extend the life of the existing solids management system. During a meeting on September 26, 2022, the Bellingham City Council affirmed the Mayor’s decision.
The City is now actively working with its consultants on shifting efforts to assessing the current system and necessary improvements to be incorporated into design and construction documents.
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.