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Somebody has to do it

3:12 pm August 30th, 2012

A heavy-equipment operator, his shirt and the machinery spattered with the sludge from Eatonville’s wastewater treatment plant, was doing a job Aug. 20 that few would enjoy but everyone in the town can appreciate.

A Port Orchard-based contractor has been cleaning out a sewage lagoon so its old liner can be replaced with a new one that will keep waste where it belongs and not pose an environmental hazard.

The town hired Stan Palmer Construction to take out a synthetic rubber liner that’s 31 years old and in danger of springing leaks. If that happened, effluent from the lagoon could get into groundwater and the nearby Mashel River.

The project has enough environmental significance that it’s being monitored by the state Department of Ecology (DOE), which has been working with town officials for two years on it.

Actual work at the site began in July. A temporary divider was installed in the lagoon to separate the contents into two sections, allowing one side at a time to be emptied at a rate that the treatment plant can handle, said Doug Beagle, town administrator.

The lagoon is part of the town’s sewage treatment process. The wastewater plant handles about 275,000 gallons of sewage per day, according to offiicials. Some of the treated effluent flows into the lagoon, where solids settle onto the liner and break down naturally. The solid matter is about a foot deep at various times during that process.

The liner project has been on the drawing board since 2010, when DOE officials declared the original liner was wearing thin and increasing the possibility of pollutants leaking through it.

Its replacement will be twice as thick, last virtually forever and meet current state requirements, according to officials.

In August last year, the Town  Council rejected an initial round of contractors’ bids to do the project. Council members – with the blessing of DOE officials, who said the old liner would probably hold out long enough – delayed the start of work until this year in the hope that the second round of bids would be lower.

Stan Palmer Construction was awarded the contract in June after the council accepted its bid of approximately $1 million. Five companies submitted proposals.

It’s the second million-dollar job for Palmer in Eatonville in the past year. The company was the contractor for the $1.2 mllion, state-funded renovation of Mashell Avenue in 2011.

Under the terms of federal financing for the lagoon liner project, Eatonville is required to provide $100,000 toward the total cost. The rest is coming from  the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development program.

DOE has issued a permit that gives the town until the end of 2013 to finish the project, if it needs that long.

Eatonville’s treatment plant has been recognized for many years by DOE for meeting all environmental standards and operational procedures that are mandated under state law.

Heavy-equipment operators move waste in the sewage lagoon at Eatonville’s treatment plant. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

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