Wastewater Management Plan Update

Septic tank

Draft 2019 Wastewater Management Plan now available.

The City has updated its 2013 Wastewater Management Plan. A wastewater management plan contains information on the existing condition of a wastewater utility, including known problems and anticipated needs for future facilities.

A public comment period on the Draft Plan closed on October 31, 2019.  The changes that will be made at document finalization, to address the comments received during the public comment period, can be reviewed here.

Council review and approval will occur in early 2020.

Why Update the Plan?

The work of the Olympia Wastewater Utility is guided by a master plan approved in 2013. Under regulation, a wastewater (or sewer) utility is required to have a general sewer plan at the time the utility is first established. Thereafter, plan updates are not a regulatory requirement.

The Utility updated its 2013 Wastewater Management Plan because it serves as a valuable tool to facilitate efficient and effective management of Utility programs and projects. As the 2013 Wastewater Management Plan serves as an excellent starting point, only a minor update occurred. Key changes included:

  • Elimination of 2013 Plan strategies the Wastewater Utility has accomplished and incorporation of new strategies primarily focusing on addressing climate change and adapting infrastructure to accommodate sea level rise.
  • Revision of the challenges facing the Wastewater Utility to address current conditions.
  • Incorporation of a revised system capacity analysis, including the addition of capital projects to address identified capacity limitations.
  • Incorporation of a revised financial analysis.

Key Challenges to be Addressed

The Utility faces numerous challenges in providing wastewater service to its service area. The following eight key challenges are addressed in the Draft 2019 Wastewater Management Plan

Aging and maintenance-intensive infrastructure poses risks to public health and water quality.  Understanding the condition of the Utility’s infrastructure informs replacement and maintenance decisions and is referred to as “asset management”. Effective operations and maintenance is critical to the wastewater system.

STEP challenge topics include: maintenance – including lifecycle costs of major components, odor control and corrosion control.

Inflow & Infiltration (I & I) from groundwater and stormwater can unnecessarily consume pipe and treatment plant capacity. To keep pipe capacities from being exceeded, priority areas for addressing I & I should be identified.

Although progress has been made on the removal of onsite sewage systems located within city limits and the urban growth area in recent years, onsite sewage systems in urban areas continue to threaten ground and surface water quality and public health, particularly in northeast and southeast Olympia.

Planned development in Olympia and its Urban Growth Area requires planning for and financing of sewer extensions cost-effectively and equitably.

Changing climate in the Pacific Northwest likely will result in increased rainfall and rising sea levels. Increased rainfall and associated flooding could result in increased flows into the combined storm/sewer system. Approximately five sewer pump stations could be impacted by rising seas.

Early adaptation to higher sea levels may allow for continued reliability and lowest reasonable cost. Efforts made by the wastewater utility such as reducing its energy use and promoting water conservation activities could assist the community in its efforts to mitigate climate change.

Significant utility staff time is spent on tasks associated with fats, oils & grease (FOG), including educating customers on proper disposal methods, responding to sewer system blockages and coordinating with LOTT. The Utility’s current FOG cleaning program is focused on grease cleaning.

To ensure it continues to be addressed, current staffing, anticipated staffing needs and potential opportunities to partner with the Stormwater Utility should be analyzed and identified.

Creating predictability for customers and developers is difficult in a complex environment. The plan will address the balance between ongoing utility needs and keeping rates as low as possible.

Proposed Wastewater Management Plan Goals, Objectives and Strategies

Working with the Utility Advisory Committee, Wastewater Utility staff has identified the six goals the Wastewater Utility hopes to achieve during the next 20 years. For each goal, one or more objectives are recommended. Corresponding proposed strategies follow each objective.

Review the proposed 2019 Wastewater Plan goals, objectives and strategies.

Significant differences between the 2013 and 2019 Wastewater Plan goals, objectives and strategies include:

  • Replacement of the 2013 Wastewater Plan's energy goal, with a broader climate change goal.
  • Addition of an objective to adapt wastewater infrastructure to changes in sea levels (and associated strategies.)
  • Addition of an objective to adapt wastewater infrastructure to accommodate changes in precipitation (and associated strategies.)

For purposes of the 2019 Wastewater Plan, Goal, Objective and Strategy have the following meanings:

Goal:  Broad, qualitative statements of what the Wastewater Utility hopes to achieve.

Objective: Specific, measurable statements of what will be done to achieve the goals within a particular time frame.

Strategy: General approaches or methods for achieving objectives and resolving specific issues. Strategies speak to the question, "How will we go about accomplishing our objectives?"

Get Involved

Sign up for the Water Resources Utilities E-newsletter to receive project updates and watch this webpage for opportunities to get involved.

Comments or questions can be sent to sclark@ci.olympia.wa.us.