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January 22, 2013

ACEC National finalist: Gold award
Special projects

CH2M Hill

Project: Belfair Wastewater and Water Reclamation Facilities

Client: Mason County Public Works

Photo courtesy of CH2M Hill [enlarge]
The town of Belfair was able to lift a building moratorium after Mason County built a new wastewater treatment system.

The town of Belfair is the commercial center of North Mason County, located on an isthmus connecting the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.

Belfair’s population swells in the summertime as tourists and nature-lovers flock to Hood Canal and the Olympic Peninsula, especially for the Taste of Hood Canal festival in August. The canal also supports a thriving shellfish industry and is important to nearby native tribes.

Yet in 2006 the county discovered that septic tanks were contributing to extremely low dissolved-oxygen levels in Hood Canal, which had killed a large number of fish. Knowing the situation would only worsen unless a better wastewater management plan was put in place, the county contracted with CH2M Hill to find a solution.

CH2M Hill’s engineers developed a total water management system that includes a new sustainable wastewater utility with a new collection system, membrane bioreactor treatment plant, treated water storage pond and reuse forest irrigation system.

The system incorporates green stormwater infrastructure techniques, such as rain gardens, permeable pavements, flexible gravel pavements and landscape pavers. “Good neighbor” design elements include odor and noise control, architectural treatments of all three pump stations and screening walls at the wastewater treatment plant.

One of the more challenging aspects of this project was the need for strong public support, including the willingness of residents to spend their own money to connect to the new sewer. CH2M Hill helped Mason County obtain $41.8 million in funding for the project, of which $34.2 million is grant money or forgivable principal that does not have to be paid back. The result: More than 80 percent of the planned customers have connected to the new system, taking approximately 200 septic systems offline.

Before Mason County had this wastewater treatment system, community growth in Belfair had slowed significantly and a building moratorium had been imposed. The new sewer utility will provide the backbone of urban services necessary to support urban densities and allow for economic growth by supporting redevelopment, expanding commercial development and supporting additional residential development as well as protect the water quality and fish habitat in Hood Canal.

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