Freeland panel OKs first step in sewer plan

One down, two to go.

Last week, the Freeland Sub-Area Planning Committee approved the first of three components needed to complete its recommendations on a sewer study for the South Whidbey town.

Meeting Thursday, the group put their stamp of approval on a type of collection system. The committee now has the task of choosing treatment technology and the location and method of discharging treated water.

Initial cost and compatibility with the nearby Holmes Harbor Sewer District led members to support a Sewer Tank Effluent Pump collection method. Before making their decision, committee members listened to one final presentation by engineers conducting a sewer feasibility study for Freeland concerning three different collection systems.

In spite of the fact that another one of the choices -- a traditional gravity system -- was touted by the engineers as being reliable and having lower maintenance costs, the STEP system got the nod.

"The STEP is more achievable, because homeowners maintain their own septic systems," said committee chairman Tom Roehl.

With a STEP system, only liquids would be pumped to a treatment facility. Homeowners would still have to pump the solids out of their septic tanks.

According to the feasibility study, STEP collection systems are well suited for low-density housing -- approximately two houses per acre. A gravity sewer would generally handle 10 houses per acre.

Roehl said he does not want the choice of a sewer system add to housing density.

"I don't want to see Freeland become a dumping ground for growth," he said.

Another determining factor was that Homes Harbor Sewer district also has a STEP collection alternative. The committee has continued to discuss the possibility of hooking into that system, even though the sewer district's commissioners have repeatedly insisted that neither they, nor district home owners, are interested in taking Freeland's waste water.

Nonetheless, Roehl pushed the idea.

"This would make it viable for Freeland and Holmes Harbor to use the same treatment facility," Roehl said.

Committee members stated they made their decision based on a survey taken at a recent public sewer workshop.

The committee now needs to decide what to do with treated waste water. Eschewing the idea of dumping the water into Holmes Harbor, options may include draining water into a manmade wetland or large drainfield.

Freeland is required by Washington state code to develop a comprehensive sewer plan for constructing or modifying wastewater facilities. The plan under development is based on a 20-year period.

The Island County Board of Commissioners have final sign off on any plans to build a sewer system in Freeland.

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