by Kirby Lindsay, posted 21 May 2012
Monica Van der Vieren, of King County Wastewater Treatment Division, has reported “radio silence” from the Fremont community on the upcoming Fremont Siphon replacement project (to learn about it, visit the website or read a Fremocentrist.com column from Dec. 2010.)
Van der Vieren has the unenviable task of community outreach for this project. No phone calls may make her workdays quieter, but it hasn’t made her rest easy.
“We would like to know what their concerns are,” she said, about everyone to be affected by this project – which has the potential to affect everyone. “A lot of people,” Van der Vieren acknowledged, “they don’t realize how big this project will be.” Replacement of the nearly 100-year-old wastewater siphon requires extensive planning, two years of substantial construction, and permanent installation of two new structures – one to maintain the new tunnels and another for odor control equipment. A blip on the screen it ain’t.
“We are early, early, early in this process,” she explained, when concerns raised can be addressed. “The more we know about the community,” Van der Vieren said at the most recent community meeting on May 15th, “the more we can modify the project to lessen the impacts.”
Areas Of Concern, So Far
So far, Van der Vieren, and the County staff working on the Fremont Siphon replacement, have heard four clear areas of concern:
- noise, traffic impacts, and construction disruptions for neighbors
- odor control
- construction displacement/interruptions of area events
- impacts on area vegetation, and wildlife
They’d like to hear more from the community – both more details on these four areas, and new, so-far-unheard and/or yet unraised concerns.
Replacement of the Fremont Siphon must be done. The concrete wastewater conveyance carries roughly 220 million gallons daily, and is of profound importance to our sewage system. Waiting until it shows its age would be wildly irresponsible. Engineers speaking to the audience of approximately 20 community members on May 15th assured us that the siphon should hold up until its replacements get on-line.
Odor Control Solutions, Check
Feedback from neighbors has already significantly impacted the project, with an activated carbon scrubber added to the project to address odor control. During the 2011 Fremont Fair, I volunteered along Canal Street, and got the slightest whiff compared to what those who work and live in that reported. The smell is bad, and their comments gave the County reason to seek a solution.
The scrubber will use a fan to suck noxious odors from the siphon (and its replacements,) as well as wafts up from under County manhole covers, and push it through a carbon filter to be replaced regularly. It will not, however, address smells from City of Seattle Public Utilities pipes beneath Canal Street, or the powerful odor that rises up when County workers clean out the sand catcher at the end of 1st Avenue N.W.
The new scrubber will require a facility, between 30’ and 40’ square, to be accessed by truck. This facility needs to be located near the Fremont head of the two new 60” diameter microtunnels to be built just west of the existing siphon, near the end of 2nd Ave N.W.
A Potential Fifth Area Of Concern
This summer, under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) an environmental review will be done. The County hopes it will help narrow down a decision to be made about where to start the tunnels on the Fremont side (they will terminus on the Queen Anne side on County property adjacent to West Ewing Mini Park.) The project planners have narrowed down the choice to two points, and recommended the one using a piece of private property, currently occupied by an industrial business.
The second option is the widest part of Fremont Canal Park, which runs along a portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail, where the Fremont fire pit stands. Officially removed years ago, a recent visit showed the fire pit still attracts illegal campsites and fires.
In an official statement, the County explained that the park “provides heavily used recreation space in a densely populated urban area. A protective ordinance based on Initiative 42 addresses permanent loss of park use and presents a serious permitting challenge.”
Regardless of the site chosen, this area of the park will be closed during the two-years of construction. After construction, the County must have permanent “above ground elements,” including a building (for the scrubber,) access slabs (for the microtunnels,) and a driveway. They will also install art, which could convert the “elements” into something visually whimsical rather than starkly utilitarian.
If built on private land, Fremont stands to lose jobs at a viable industrial business. “We went through an equity and social justice analysis,” explained Van der Vieren, about the recommendation. The analysis showed, for one reason, other industrial properties, in this general area, currently vacant due to the down economy and available for relocation. Displacement of the established business can be seen as a long-term, more equitable decision than loss of public land, owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation, and maintained by Seattle Parks & Recreation.
End Radio Silence On The Siphon
For now, the County seeks feedback on this, and all aspects of the project. “The County does not make a decision until after environmental review,” Van der Vieren stated firmly, about the location. The environmental review process includes a public comment period that Van der Vieren hopes community members take advantage of, but she stated clearly that comments, concerns and/or suggested solutions can also be given now.
“Whatever we’re hearing gets conveyed upwards,” Van der Vieren also pointed out, as both the King County Council and the Executive get briefed on comments received and efforts made to address them. What she fears is that when the backhoes arrive to dig the microtunnels (possibly in 2014 or 2015) they get stopped or delayed by the comment, ‘you never told me about this project!’
Comment today. Radio silence can be refreshing, but this project will affect our community and deserves at least a brief word. To give an opinion, contact Van der Vieren at email@example.com or 206/263-7301. If you hold your tongue due to a lack of understanding, review the Fremont Siphon Replacement Project website, visit the King County Wastewater booth at the upcoming Fremont Street Fair, or ask Van der Vieren about her next presentation to a local community group.
Now is time to get noisy, Fremont! And I know we can do it very well…
- A Look Inside The Fremont Siphon
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 17, 2010
- A Wilderness Day Hike, In Fremont?
- by Kirby Lindsay, October 18, 2010
©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.