Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Oak Harbor need a new wastewater treatment facility?
The City's current wastewater treatment system uses aging facilities that t are difficult to maintain, nearing capacity, and not equipped to meet future water quality standards. The existing plants require frequent upkeep and are at risk of failing, as they did during a rainstorm in November 2015. The new facility will replace both existing plants. It will have increased capacity and updated equipment.
Why was Windjammer Park chosen for the new facility site?
The City reviewed more than 25 locations over a three-year process with numerous public gatherings and design workshops. City Council selected the Windjammer Vicinity in 2012 after considering community impacts and input, cost, and environmental benefits. The Windjammer Vicinity is strategically placed at the end point in the City’s existing sewage collection system – all of the City’s wastewater currently flows to this location. Building the new treatment plant near the current facility offers the opportunity to use existing pipes, minimizing the cost of moving wastewater elsewhere.
To view past presentations, meeting materials, project updates, and project documents that helped guide early siting decisions from 2010-2012 and further decisions about siting within the Windjammer Vicinity from 2013-2014, visit our library page.
How big is the new facility?
The new facility will serve all of Oak Harbor and be able to process twice the daily flow of the existing facilities. The facility’s total footprint will be just over two acres and will include the footprint of the current facility in Windjammer Park.
When will the new facility be operational?
The facility began operation in November 2018. For more details about construction check out our past construction updates. For more information about how the facility works check out our treatment technology page.
What will the new facility look like?
You can see design drawings on the Project Information page.City Council approved the design in May 2016.
The final design incorporates community feedback that was gathered starting in November 2104. The design features Northwest design elements, including wood and brick, varied roofline heights, and educational and interpretive displays. Landscape around the facility will use a northwest coastal palette of plantings; it will also be integrated with Windjammer Park, currently in design.
How can I find out what’s going on with construction?
The easiest way to stay up-to-date on construction is to sign up for our weekly email updates – just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to start receiving them. You can visit the construction page for the most recent update and more information. The project team also hosts public drop-in hours twice per month.
What do I do if I have a comment, question, or concern about construction?
To report life-threatening emergencies on the construction site, please call 911. To speak with project staff or to report any irregularities at the construction site, please call our 24-hour project hotline at 360-914-7000.
What is the cost of the new facility?
The project team continues to seek efficiencies in design and construction methods to reduce project cost, which is helpful to overall sewer rates. In spring 2018, project staff provided City Council with an update on the facility’s anticipated costs. Project costs are estimated to total $140.7 M. The team has worked hard to secure project funding, which is anticipated to total $140.7 M. For more information on the 2018 cost estimates, see the video and presentations from March 5 City Council workshop on our library page.
In addition to City funds, the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Governor’s Capital Budget Project have contributed to the funding of the Clean Water Facility, keeping the project as affordable as possible. The City’s efforts to control cost and their ability to obtain attractive funding have also kept sewer rates within their original estimated amounts. The City will continue to seek out additional funding sources as the project progresses.
How will the project affect my sewer rates?
On March 15, 2016, City Council approved wastewater service rates for 2016, 2017, and 2018 based on previously projected Clean Water Facility project costs. Because project costs to date and remaining estimates are lower than previously anticipated, there is potential for future monthly rates to be lower than projected. Funds from wastewater service rates go toward operating the wastewater system, including pipes, facility, operations, and facility maintenance. Part of the rates will also help pay for the cost of facility construction and design. You can learn more about the rate analysis and approved service rates by viewing the City Council meeting, agenda bill, and approved three-year rate schedule on the City's Website.
How will the new facility fit into Windjammer Park?
Siting the Clean Water Facility in Windjammer Park presents a unique opportunity to develop a long-term plan for the park, integrating existing and new elements in this special community space. The City worked with community members, including a community advisory group, to create the Windjammer Park Integration Plan, which City Council adopted in May 2016. The plan will be implemented in phases, and more specific design of Phase 1 is currently underway. Visit the Windjammer Park page for more information.
How will the new facility help protect the environment in Oak Harbor?
The technology for the new facility was selected due to its minimal environmental impacts. The Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Treatment Process produces very clean water and requires the smallest footprint compared to other wastewater treatment processes. The technology reduces the amount of pollutants discharged into the Oak Harbor Bay, providing cleaner water for all of Oak Harbor’s humans, animals, and plants.
MBR treatment technology filters solids and other pollutants from wastewater. Bacteria use oxygen and the pollutants as a food source, essentially accelerating nature’s normal decomposition process. Those bacteria are then filtered through a small membrane filter, which holds the solids back from the liquids. MBR technology produces water suitable for re-use in the irrigation of parks and golf courses, street washing, industrial cooling water, and many other non-potable applications.
What are are biosolids?
Biosolids are a nutrient rich reusable resource, full of nitrogen and just the right amount of phosphorus. We are making biosolids at the Clean Water Facility using the biosolid dryer located in the solids building. By creating biosolids, we are providing a higher level of treatment and reducing the volume of material removed from the facility and placed in a landfill. We'll be trucking our biosolid product off site to enrich soil and help plant growth at golf courses, farms, community gardens, and more!
For more information about how wastewater is converted to biosolids visit our Treatment Process page.