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Temporary fix found for Oak Harbor outfall pipe

C. Johnson Construction workers prepare an area of the beach before making repairs to the Windjammer Park RBC wastewater treatment outfall pipe near the end of City Beach Street on Wednesday morning. Repairs were completed Thursday.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
C. Johnson Construction workers prepare an area of the beach before making repairs to the Windjammer Park RBC wastewater treatment outfall pipe near the end of City Beach Street on Wednesday morning. Repairs were completed Thursday.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor’s wastewater treatment plant outfall pipe is good to go, er, flow ... for now.

“The emergency repairs have been made, but there are issues that remain,” said Civil Engineer Russ Pabarcus.

Earlier this month the Oak Harbor City Council authorized up to $75,000 for emergency repairs to an aging outfall pipe that burst and sent treated wastewater burbling through the ground about 200 feet from the shoreline. Although treated, the wastewater is supposed to discharge through a pipe hundreds of feet out into Oak Harbor Bay.

Wastewater Operations Manager Steve Bebee and Zack Hammond, owner of Cold Water Diving, plugged the end of the pipe to keep water from rushing in at high tide while C. Johnson Construction inspected and repaired a 10- to 12-foot section of pipe near the break.

Inspection of the 50-plus-year-old pipe uncovered extensive corrosion and additional leaks, he said, adding “the pipe is in pretty bad shape.”

C. Johnson Construction banded and replaced the heavily corroded section, but the city will pursue a more semi-permanent fix, “Something that will hold for more than six month and less than 50 years,” Pabarcus said.

Possible temporary fixes may include “slip lining” or inserting a smaller pipe inside the existing pipe, he said.

Bebee said city staff will meet next week to discuss the different options and possibly consider diverting the water to the Seaplane Base Lagoon until a new wastewater treatment plant is built.

The cost for the repairs is expected to run under the $75,000 allotted by City Council May 18, Bebee said. The current rough estimate for the temporary pipe fix is about $15,000 to $20,000.

The repairs had minimal environmental impact and the beach will be open for the public this Memorial Day weekend.

Officials have tentatively planned to begin construction on a new wastewater treatment facility within the next seven years. Depending on the final location and treatment methods used, the cost will range from $30 to $60 million, City Engineer Eric Johnston said at a City Council meeting in March.

During that meeting, the City Council approved contract negotiations with Carollo Engineers of Arizona for a new wastewater treatment facility.

Carollo Engineers will first develop a facility plan, or the “what and where” of the project. The next step will be the development of a scope of work, which will include extensive public involvement in the form of stakeholder, public and City Council meetings.

If all goes as planned, construction is expected to start in 2017.

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