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Main Street sues county over sewers

Main Street Sewer District has filed a lawsuit to stop a competing wastewater treatment system from being built in Freeland.

The district filed the lawsuit in Island County Superior Court on April 10 against Island County and the Freeland Water District.

Main Street has proposed its own sewer treatment system for Freeland’s downtown and has long opposed the county’s efforts to create an alternative plan. The lawsuit hopes to thwart the design and construction of a new system developed over several years by an outside engineering firm for the county.

In the lawsuit, Main Street is demanding that it be allowed to serve Freeland’s business core.

The case was filed just weeks after county commissioners adopted the Freeland Water District sewer plan over a proposed expansion of the existing Main Street system. The Main Street system currently serves the Village at Maple Ridge, a development of senior condominiums.

Erl Bangston, the developer of the Main Street Sewer System, noted that Main Street is a viable alternative to the water district plan. Bangston is one of the sewer districts three commissioners.

Bangston said Main Street is an expandable system that could serve the Freeland business district.

Mike Shelton, commissioner for Island County said he and the other commissioners have been briefed about the lawsuit by their attorney Dave Jamison.

“They have made us aware of the suit and that they will be defending the county,” said Shelton.

“I can’t say much more than that,” he said.

Main Street has also filed a challenge against the state Department of Health and Department of Ecology over its decision to issue “certificates of necessity” for the county-approved sewer system. A hearing is set for May 12 in Thurston County Superior Court.

Bangston said he will personally jump into the fray.

“I will be there testifying,” said Bangston.

“We were the existing sewer district. They did not contact us before they issued permission to the water district,” he said.

“I will be telling them that Main Street is the way to go,” Bangston said.

“Main Street is not a throw away system,” he added. “We handed the state an operating system that is in a better position to go forward with sewers for Freeland.”

Commissioners picked the Freeland Water District last month instead of the Main Street Sewer District because they said the Main Street operation is limited. The commissioners noted that Main Street could only serve the area until 2015, when the system would reach 85 percent of its capacity. Then another large new system would need to be built.

Bangston argues that it will cost less money in the long run, however.

That, too, was not enough to sway county commissioners. They said that savings of about 20 percent isn’t enough for a system that can only operate until 2015.

“They poo-pooed a savings of 20 percent, but it’s a significant amount of money,” Bangston said.

“We wouldn’t need to build as large a system in 2015, because Main Street would already be handling a significant amount,” he said.

In the lawsuit Main Street is asking for the Freeland Water District to be prevented from taking any further steps or actions in the design and construction of a public sewer system until it receives final approvals from the state Department of Health and Department of Ecology. The lawsuit also seeks to prohibit the county from approving the Freeland plan since it covers the same area as the Main Street comprehensive sewer plan.

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