Category: Uncategorized

Commissioner’s Corner May 2024

Lakehaven is serious about its job to ensure reliable and environmentally conscious sewer service for our customers. A big part of that job is making sure that we aren’t spending money unnecessarily. Just as we are reducing maintenance and treatment costs by preventing excess fats, oils and grease from entering the sewer system, we would like to reduce costs associated with rainwater that doesn’t belong in the system.
We are doing everything we can to keep water from infiltrating our wastewater system. This includes lining sewer mains and sealing manholes in areas that have high ground water levels and maintaining the pipe in the public right of way. We are challenged with rainwater entering the system from private property,though.
Homeowners can have trouble with drainage on their property when it rains, which sometimes enters their crawl spaces and basements. That problem is sometimes addressed by the homeowner installing a sump pump or a foundation drain. The problem for the sewer system occurs when that water is conveniently and illegally routed away from the house through the sewer lateral. A single sump pump can send more than 7,000 gallons of water to the system during a rainfall event. That’s about the same volume of liquids as the average daily flow from 33 homes! One city in the Midwest part of the country did a study and found that over twenty-five percent of its residential properties had foundation drains improperly connected to the sewer lateral.
It costs money to unnecessarily treat this clean rain water. Not only are there chemical and other treatment costs for the volume of water, but there also are costs associated with the loss of system capacity. Our smaller treatment plant at Redondo does not have room to add capacity to handle the massive spikes in flow from rainwater. The utility must consider other expensive options to deal with the inflow, such as increasing our outfall capacity, or possibly rerouting the water to our larger plant at Lakota.
You can help us battle the problem of rainwater entering the sewer system. Do you know if you have a foundation drain or a sump pump connected to your sewer lateral? You certainly want to find this out when you are purchasing a home. An inspection of the sewer lateral will show if there are cross connections, leaks, or blockages that should be addressed. Please insist that this be part of your new home inspection and that any drainage issues be resolved as part of the sale.
By making sure your property’s drainage is not connected to the sewer system, you can help the District save resources and keep rates down. Thanks!

Commissioners Corner August 2023

One of the questions I am asked as a commissioner is,“what is being constructed at this address?” I usually can provide an answer because most construction touches on water and sewer service. As a utility, we are constantly doing construction projects. The largest one is our Headquarters Building on 1st Ave. I am so proud of our employees in the planning and managing of the construction. Having moved our departments into the building this summer, it is open to the public for customer and development engineering services. Public tours will be given once a month starting in July and we will have a grand opening in August. See our website for more information.

In order to maintain our assets, we have a replacement/maintenance schedule for our pipes, pumps and even our treatment plants. Our treatment plants at Lakota and Redondo are over thirty years old and upgrades to them will be our biggest construction projects over the next few years. These projects include updating the electrical systems, bio-towers, and other parts of the wastewater process.

We are also likely involved in the construction projects you see throughout the area. Most building construction will need new or adjusted water and sewer service connections. Our Development Engineering section regularly reports to the Board on projects that are in progress throughout the District (you can see the list of projects in our April 27, 2023 Board agenda). We are even often involved in traffic construction projects. We coordinate with other governmental agencies within our service area on their asphalt overlay programs to determine if our pipes in areas they are planning to pave are in need of replacement. We quickly design, bid, and replace our assets before paving is completed to avoid disturbing new pavement. We also often have to relocate our utility lines for projects like Sound Transit’s rail lines and transit station.

So when you see construction throughout the area, be thankful for your utility employees who work to make sure the water and sewer service is provided and maintained.

Commissioner’s Corner September 2022

As school starts up again, and we begin to come into the cold and flu season this fall, all of us will ramp up on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. The past two years the cleaning industry has made cleaning easier by creating all sorts of disinfecting and cleaning wipes. Many of them are labeled as disposable, and many people assume that means that they are flushable, but that is not the case.

What happens when a disposable wipe gets into the sewer system? They aren’t designed to break down like toilet paper. If they get to the treatment plant we need to physically remove them from the water before treatment (yuk!). Often they get stuck with other things that don’t belong in the pipes and can create expensive backups and maintenance issues.

Lakehaven is grateful that Washington state enacted legislation in July that put “Do Not Flush” labels on certain cleaning products. Please look for this new labeling. In general, unless it is toilet paper or human waste, please do not flush it down the drain.

I asked John Barton, our Wastewater Operations Manager, about the impact of wipes on our sewer system. He related the significant labor, equipment, and maintenance costs associated with these wipes. To process this garbage, we have to have special equipment to screen or chop it up at our pump stations and treatment facilities. It skews the biological testing results, making the operator’s job more difficult. We also have the cost of disposing of this garbage; if our biosolids have too much of this product in them we have to dispose of it as garbage at a huge cost instead of sending it to farms for soil amendments.

Just remember that toilets are not trash cans. Besides disposable wipes there are many other things that do not belong in the sewer system. Diapers and feminine products should never be flushed. Medicines and pharmaceuticals upset the biological processes in the treatment plant and are not good for the aquatic environment. Fats, oils and grease also should not go down the drain. As people cooked more at home during Covid, we experienced significantly more grease at our treatment plants. Other items that are garbage that we don’t want to process are latex products, paint and automotive fluids, paper towels and cotton balls, coffee grounds, produce stickers, excess food waste and hair.

I’m sure that you wouldn’t like the job of removing this garbage from the sewers. Please help out our maintenance personnel by keeping it out in the first place. Thank you for your valuable cooperation!

Commissioner’s Corner Jan 2021

As we begin a new year it is always helpful to reflect on where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what steps we can take along the way to get there.  Our utility is constantly evaluating and planning how to best serve our customers.  You can help us, too.

As a new commissioner, I have been so pleased to meet the staff and work with the utility leadership this past year.  They amazingly tackled the Covid crisis, and as essential workers, continued seamlessly providing water and sewer service while protecting staff and the public. Our utility workers don’t often get remembered along with nurses and grocery clerks as essential, but need to be recognized for their sacrifice and contribution to our lives during this crisis.  Please thank a utility worker!

Besides managing a crisis, we were able to continue normal operations.  We are updating our water meters to be read automatically and we’ve upgraded our UV disinfection at our treatment plants.  We also had legal challenges, where through judicial decision we became the first local government (special utility district) to be allowed to be taxed by another government (City of Federal Way).

The water and sewer industry all over the country is experiencing challenges:  aging infrastructure, tightening regulations, and an aging workforce.  Our treatment plants are over 30 years old, and are in need of expansion to meet the needs of the population over the next 30 years and to meet tightening discharge regulations.  The Commissioners and utility leadership have had the foresight to plan for these future needs that are coming at us sooner than expected. 

Every day our staff takes the steps to continue to provide clean water and reliable sewer service.  But you can help us, too.  Please only put the three P’s down the drain: pee, poop and paper.  Please, no fats, oils, grease, medications, harsh chemicals, paint, solvents, wipes, personal hygiene products, excess food waste or hair.  If you put these down the drain, we have to take it out.  Please also keep extra water out of the drains by limiting showers, not piping rainwater into the sewer system, and keeping your side sewer maintained and free from tree roots. You can also help by encouraging jobs seekers to consider our industry.  We’d love to talk to school groups and colleges and can provide educational materials and tours.  Our industry is very STEM and environmentally engaging, and has great benefits and opportunities for advancement.

Commissioner’s Corner Mar 2020

Greetings to all Lakehaven customers and employees! I am honored to serve as your newly appointed commissioner.  My term started in January, and I’ve been busy meeting employees, touring facilities, and doing commission business. I am so happy to be serving in my field of training (with my master degrees in water civil engineering and public administration) for the benefit of our community.

I wanted to be a commissioner because I am passionate about water:  my family loves swimming, boating, canoeing, hiking and camping near streams and beaches.  It was also my chosen field of training, as hydrology and hydraulics are the emphasis of my civil engineering degrees, and the focus of my professional engineering work. I am excited to be serving in this field, and to bring an engineering perspective to the board.  We all can be grateful for the often unseen efforts of good engineering and planning for the reliable water and sewer service that we all enjoy.  As a commissioner I hope to help continue that legacy.

I also value learning and helping others to learn.  I teach, have recently obtained a new degree in public administration, and have founded a non-profit education service.  I believe that the more people understand about something (including their water and sewer service) the more they will appreciate it and contribute to making it better.  As a commissioner I would like to promote opportunities for learning about the utility through our schools and community gatherings.

I also have a passion for serving.  I’ve been involved serving our community through leading various non-profit organizations for over thirty years.  Recently I have been active chairing the Federal Way Park’s Commission, singing in a regional choir that does benefit concerts, and helping my son’s Boy Scout troop.  Serving builds community and increases appreciation, communication, connectedness and understanding.  I encourage everyone to give at least an hour of their week volunteering, and participate in community.  I appreciate the fact that our water and sewer is provided by a non-profit special purpose government, instead of a private company.  Commissioners lead the utility as public servants.  All of your commissioners live in the district, and are motivated to provide great service and maintain our assets with reasonable rates. I love Federal Way, having lived and raised six kids here for over 30 years.  I would love to meet you and hear from you.  You can call the office to schedule an appointment.  The public is always welcome at our board meetings in the Lakehaven Center by the French Lake Dog Park on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month at 7:00 p.m.