The City of Bellingham will submit proposals for the Post Point Wastewater Treatment Plant to the state Department of Ecology (DOE) after a unanimous vote from the Bellingham City Council Monday night.
The facility plan, which details construction plans, timelines, costs and environmental concerns, will be submitted later this month, starting a 90-day DOE review period.
“This facility plan is a detailed plan that lays out the goals for the project and provides a layout of the plant facilities,” council member Michael Lilliquist, chair of the Public Works and Natural Resources committee, told council members during Monday’s meeting. “Nothing that was discussed today was actually new.”
After the review, DOE will give the city time to revise the plan, if necessary. The city expects the plan to be approved by November this year.
The current proposal details plans to replace the existing incinerators at the Post Point facility with thermophilic anaerobic digesters, which will break down dewatered sewage sludge into nutrient-rich “biosolids.” The city OK’d the plan in April despite the high price tag, and without plans for handling the biosolids.
Initially, the city hoped to sell the biosolids off to companies to convert into fertilizer for gardens and industrial agricultural sites, but concerns regarding “PFAS,” or perfluoralkyl and polyfluoralkyl substances, rose significantly after the proposal went public.
PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” are manufactured chemicals that come from everyday products, like cleaning solutions or over-the-counter medications.
The city is still considering biosolids as a fertilizer, but will be conducting additional studies and seeking public input on what to do with the biosolids.
Bellingham’s Public Works Director Eric Johnston told council members the city has plans for PFAS and biosolids-related discussions in the near future.
“We will be having a discussion about the parallel public process for the biosolids project, and a significant element of that is some public education,” he told council members Monday. “It’s not just for the Council, but for the community, about issues and the risks associated with PFAS, also explaining what PFAS are, where they come from and how they affect our biosolids system.”
Lilliquist made a motion to approve submission of the facilities plan to DOE, and the motion was seconded by council member Lisa Anderson.