• King County Auditor: Sewer overflow project could cost $2.6 billion

    By: David Ham

    Updated:

    SEATTLE, Wash. - A King County auditor's report found that a combined sewage overflow project originally priced at $711 million could now cost ratepayers $2.6 billion.

    The Wastewater Treatment Division plans to build nine new facilities to hold and treat storm water and sewage by 2030.

    The clean water is released into local waterways like the Duwamish River, Puget Sound, and Lake Washington.

    The county is halting the project for three months until it there is a better explanation of the cost differences.

    "I am very concerned about the most recent Georgetown Wet Weather Treatment Station adjusted cost estimates. Based on the information I have seen, I am not convinced the Wastewater Treatment Division

    (WTD) has done a thorough enough job of reexamining the alternatives and identifying cost containment and cost cutting measures," wrote Christie True, director of King County's Department of Natural Resources.”

    Wastewater Treatment Division director Pam Elardo doesn't agree with the auditor's projection.

    "I don’t think that's a realistic estimate at this point," Elardo added, "It's very speculative at this point."

    King County auditor Kymber Waltmunson wrote in the report that the projected cost is higher based on

    "Imprecise cost estimates and insufficient analysis of over alternatives."

    Waltmunson added, "Early indications are that costs are likely to grow substantially for the Georgetown project."

    Elardo said the project is very complicated.

    “These numbers were actually developed in the mid-1990s we had estimates for property values if you look at inflation they are way different," said Elardo.

    If the auditor's estimated cost of $2.6 billion is correct, it could increase rates for all ratepayers.

    By 2030, the county will add $7 a month to every ratepayer's bill.

    If the project costs $2.6 billion, ratepayers could pay $28 a month.

    "Everything costs a lot more it doesn't ever end it's always more than what they say it's going to be," said Nancy Lauterback, who lives in Seattle.

    The rate increases would be phased in over 16 years.

    Elardo doesn't think the additional rates will quadruple.

    "The $7 a month figure is a number we feel comfortable we are going to hit and that's between now and the year 2030," said Elardo.

    Elardo does agree that the county should take a step back for three months and re-examine the costs.

    "It's a perfect time to halt look at the alternatives see if we can control costs or move costs around so we can deliver this project most cost effectively," Elardo added, "I hold our fiscal responsibility as a core value for this division absolutely. it is part of who I am I will not allow or even appear as if we are  not doing right by our ratepayers."

    The overflow projects are currently in the design phase. Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

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