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Special Report: Yelm’s water-sewer system’s current status,
Public Works requires funding upgrades for city to grow!

Yelm Public Works
Credit: city of Yelm

Council must approve Public Works funding for city to grow

Ed. note: The April 6th city council Study Session and April 13th council meeting had briefings and discussions on allowing a property owner to petition the city for his 10 acres of county property contiguous to the city limits to be annexed. Secondly, also discussed was the potential disposition of the 640 acre deed the city now possesses along with the property’s L.I.D. debt, once that is paid. Both projects require the city to have water rights the city does not currently posses.

+ Water availability must be proven prior to the city issuing a development’s plat approval as a result of state water law made right here in Yelm from a December 2011 decision by the Supreme Court of Washington State, in JZ Knight vs. City of Yelm, et al.

+ Community Development Director Grant Beck recently informed the council that he expects the city to receive additional water rights sometime during this summer. This would open the way for developments and single-home builders to move forward to receive their permits from the city.

+ That got me to thinking of how would the Public Works water/sewer systems be able to handle hundreds more hook-ups, since the Nisqually Valley News report of a year ago about the council approving a design agreement to develop a $22 million water reclamation fix.

+ Public Works Director Cody Colt stressed in my exchange last week that “it is imperative that Council takes that [funding the WRF – Water Reclamation Facility] into consideration when looking at the possible construction of the new WRF.”

+ In follow-up to my previous questions last February, last week I asked Public Works Director Cody Colt specifically if the water and sewer systems could handle the potential to more than double Yelm’s water rights and the city’s subsequent growth:

  • Key Points:
  • There are currently 3,400 water customers and 2,700 sewer customers, the difference being those with septic tanks not connected to Public Works.
  • The current sewer system’s 2,700 connections (residences, businesses) is out of a capacity of 3,600.
  • If the city is granted additional water rights, the difference of 900 new sewer connections to reach maximum capacity is projected to be reached within 36 months.
  • The city updated/finalized their water mitigation package to the Department of Ecology earlier this month.
  • The new Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) is imperative to be funded by the council to provide a doubling of the current system’s capacity, allowing the community to grow.
Blogger: What was the capacity of hook-ups at the time the water-sewer system
came online?

Colt: Our current Sewer System is rated to handle 1.1 MGD (Million Gallons a Day) which is max load. Although, you lose all backups and fail safes at that rating since all 3 SBRs are running full time. So they (DOE and our operators) recommend you don't exceed ~750,000 Gallons a day.

Blogger: What is the current capacity of hook-ups now (by hook-ups, I mean how
many customer connections can the city's system handle)?

Colt: Currently our Sewer System handles around 500,000 Gallons a Day. Which is equal to about 2,700 connections. So the City could handle "in theory" another 900 or so connections before we are reaching our recommended limits. That number could be more or less depending on the type of connections, homes vs commercial vs industrial.

As for our well system, we currently are allowed to pump 800 Acre Feet Per Year, we have pumped around 760-770 each of the last few years. Our current wells could pump nearly double that number if needed, but we are limited by DOE/DOH on how much we are allowed to pump each year. We also haven't had the need to pump more since our growth has been limited because of Water Rights. Yelm residents also use much less water per year than similar size homes in other cities. So our Well Water System mechanically could most likely pump double the current allowed number and serve another 3,000 customers. But, this is all part of the Water Rights package and discussion that is going on with DOH and DOE right now.

Blogger: How many current hook-up customers do the city have?

Colt: We have around 2,700 sewer customers and around 3,400 water customers. The reason for the disparage between the two numbers is some water customers still have Septic Tanks on their properties and are not connected to our sewer system.

Blogger: I am asking these questions because Community Development has several developments ready to go when the city receives the additional water rights. If your current sewer capacity can only "handle 'in theory' another 900 or so connections before we are reaching our recommended limits," then that is not some far off timeline after the city receives the additional water rights, based on a hot housing market here. Does the $22.2 million wastewater treatment facility upgrade referenced in the NVN's August 11, 2020 story include capacity expansion?  
Colt: As for the 900 additional connections I think we will hit that in the next 36 months after water rights come through, so it is imperative that Council takes that into consideration when looking at the possible construction of the new WRF [Water Reclamation Facility]. Once council approves the new WRF construction contract, which we expect in July or August. The build/upgrades will take about 24 months once started.

The new WRF would be able to handle 2.2 MGPD which is double the max load of our current WRF. It also is extremely easy to upgrade that capacity by dropping in new Membrane Cassettes. So, if growth continues at this rate we can continue to have available sewer connections for the next 20+ years.

+ Bottom line: I sincerely that Director Colt for his responsiveness!

Posted by Steve on April 19, 2021 at 12:31 am | Permalink

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One comment

  1. Thank you for this update, excellent reporting. Hopefully our expectations of new water rights will come to pass. Yelm has been and is a bedroom community. The major part of its growth, in my opinion, will continue to be residential. We must plan for the necessary infrastructure to service that growth.

    Comment by Carlos Perez on April 19, 2021 at 10:10 am

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