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King County Peddling Reclaimed Water

Ruby de Luna
06/21/2001

King County residents lead the state in recycling and in using recycled products. Now the county wants to take the next step… with recycled water. In the second story of our series, living the dry life, KUOW’s Ruby de Luna shows us how King County is promoting reclaimed water, but not everyone’s buying it.

ROGER CALHOUN GROWS STRAWBERRIES, APPLES, AND OTHER CROPS ON THE SOUTH 47TH FARM IN THE SAMAMISH RIVER VALLEY. RECENTLY HE WAS APPROACHED BY KING COUNTY WATER OFFICIALS TO CONSIDER USING RECLAIMED WATER ON HIS FIELD. CALHOUN HAS DOUBTS BECAUSE RECLAIMED WATER COMES FROM TREATED SEWAGE… Our main concerns are not just the microbial contamination but how about fertilizers coming through, how about organics coming through, how about heavy metals coming through. These are all things that are of concern to water that you’re adding to something you’re going to eat eventually. THE COUNTY INSISTS RECLAIMED WATER IS SAFE. JUST ASK RICK BUTLER, THE MAN WHO CLEANS KING COUNTY’S DIRTY WATER. (BRING UP PLANT AMBI) WHENEVER YOU FLUSH, SHOWER OR RUN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL ALL THAT STUFF ENDS UP IN THE COUNTY’S WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANTS. BUTLER OVERSEES THE RENTON FACILITY… These are our primary treatment tanks and all it does is provides tension when the sewage first comes in to the treatment plant to remove what will readily sink or readily float. AFTER THE SOLIDS ARE TAKEN OUT, LIVE ALGAE AND BACTERIA GOBBLE UP WASTE FROM THE EFFLUENT. THE WATER IS THEN CLARIFIED, BUTLER SAYS, REMOVING 95 PERCENT OF THE POLLUTANTS… The clarified effluent flows out through the tops of those pipes and that’s our final product. We chlorinate it for disinfection, viruses, pathogen control and that what we end up pumping out to Puget Sound. SOME OF THIS WATER IS ALSO DIVERTED FOR ADDITIONAL TREATMENT WHERE IT BECOMES CLASS A STANDARD RECLAIMED WATER. THAT MEANS IT CAN BE USED FOR PRACTICALLY ANYTHING BUT CONSUMPTION. KING COUNTY HAS BEEN REUSING WATER SINCE THE LAST DROUGHT IN 1992. THIS YEAR THE COUNTY WILL BOOST PRODUCTION IN RESPONSE TO THE CURRENT WATER SHORTAGE, SAYS RICK KIRKBY, THE COUNTY’S WATER RESOURCES MANAGER… Drought does push a lot of these issues and that’s kind of one of the reasons why we like to call it drought-resistant product because we are going to have effluent here regardless of what the water supply to county looks like so we will have this as a resource. A RESOURCE, KIRKBY SAYS, THAT WOULD SAVE ENOUGH FRESH WATER FOR MORE THAN 5000 FAMILIES EACH DAY. (BRING UP PARK AMBI) SOME OF THE TREATED WATER IS PIPED OUT HERE IN TUKWILA AT FORT DENT PARK TO IRRIGATE THE BALLFIELDS. TO EASE PUBLIC CONCERNS, THE COUNTY POSTED SIGNS AND SENT OUT BROCHURES BEFORE LAUNCHING THE PROGRAM. THAT APPARENTLY WORKED, AND PARK USERS LIKE RON MILLER DON’T SEEM TO MIND... It’s been purified so it’s alright… it’s good for conserving water, the good water. THE COUNTY WILL BEGIN TO PIPE RECLAIMED WATER TO NEARBY FOSTER GOLF COURSE, AND LOCAL BUSINESSES IN TUKWILA. AND IT HOPES TO EXPAND THE PROGRAM IN THE SAMAMISH RIVER VALLEY. (BRING UP FARM AMBI) DESPITE ALL THIS ACCEPTANCE, SKEPTICS LIKE FARMER ROGER CALHOUN ARE HOLDING BACK. CALHOUN SAYS HE WANTS MORE INFORMATION TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE WATER IS SAFE FOR HIS FRUIT AND VEGETABLE CROPS… We need to see the science and we need to see what’s coming out of their purification process and we’ll make our decisions. AND EVEN IF THE SCIENCE IS SOUND ENOUGH TO CONVINCE CALHOUN, HE SAYS THE IDEA OF USING RECLAIMED WATER IS GOING TO BE A TOUGH SELL FOR HIS CUSTOMERS. I’M RUBY DE LUNA, KUOW 94.9 PUBLIC RADIO.

12.12.18

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