All foes, no friends for decant facility

Bainbridge residents seem in complete agreement over the best location for a new “decant” facility.

They want it to go elsewhere – off-island if possible, or perhaps to the former dump site on Vincent Road – and nowhere near their own neighborhood.

A recommendation to upgrade the existing site at the Head of the Bay drew outrage and protests from nearby residents concerned about truck traffic and pollution, at an open house Thursday at the Commons.

“This is a farce,” said Eagle Harbor Drive resident Dan Brewer, who has spearheaded neighborhood opposition. “This is not an open forum. The focus is on costs, with very little about the environment.”

Facing the city public works department is how to dispose of street-sweeping material and debris from storm drains and ditches, as well as dirt and vegetation collected when crews grade road shoulders.

Because of its proximity to vehicle traffic, some of the material becomes tainted with petroleum residues, and needs to be disposed of in a lined landfill.

The material first must be “decanted” – with water separated from solids, which is done in large trays. The liquids are then taken to the wastewater treatment plant for disposal, while the solids are trucked to a landfill.

Presently, that operation is conducted on city-owned property at the Head of the Bay, on a dirt road northwest of where Wyatt Way turns becomes Eagle Harbor Drive. The city has been looking at site alternatives, because of the current site’s limited capacity and proximity to several city wellheads.

After two earlier possible sites – one on lower Weaver Road, and one near the school-bus barn off New Brooklyn Road – were felled by neighborhood opposition, the mayor appointed a citizen committee to investigate options that did not involve locating a new facility on the island, chiefly off-island disposal.

Thursday, the committee presented its recommendation: to upgrade the existing Head of the Bay site so the decanting and disposal operations can be undertaken in an environmentally safe manner.

But the proximity of wellheads and a year-round fresh-water stream made that recommendation unattractive even to those who did not live in the area.

“It’s the wrong place,” said fisheries biologist Wayne Daley. “A group of creeks at the Head of the Bay are the only quality streams running into Eagle Harbor. They are incredibly valuable sources of freshwater, and productive salmon streams. There is too much of a risk of spills.”

A Toe Jam Hill Road resident was equally blunt. “To place a facility of this type at a wellhead is absurd,” the resident stated in a written comment.

The only favorable comments came from residents of areas near an already rejected site off New Brooklyn.

“Proximity to neighborhoods with young children should be avoided at all costs,” wrote a North Town Woods resident.

One alternative – shipping the material to an off-island disposal site – was rejected by the panel because of higher costs and increased highway traffic.

Another alternative suggested in many of the comments was the former landfill property on Vincent Road, which received only cursory consideration in light of the committee’s directive to examine alternatives to a new on-island site.

“We made a trip over there,” said committee member Don Flora, “and came away as a group with a lot of questions, because the site was recently cleaned up and capped, and is a conservation work in progress. But we may want to take another look at that and pose some specific questions to the conservation agencies.”

Charles Schmid of the Association of Bainbridge Communities, which monitored and served as advisors on the former dump site – now a recycling facility – said he was not aware of any absolute impediments to using the parcel for a decant facility.

“Traffic on Vincent Road is an issue,” he said. “Odor is sometimes cited, but I don’t think the odor travels.”

When a New Brooklyn-area site was proposed two years ago, odor was cited as a major objection, especially because decanting would include residue from cleaning the sewer system.

This time, though, the citizen committee has recommended modifying the wastewater treatment plant on Eagle Harbor to process that material.

The city plans to do so, meaning that sewage sludge will no longer be part of the decant plan.

The committee will review the comments and possibly revise its recommendations, member David Harrison said.

“We got a lot of good information,” he said.

“This is very much of a work in progress and we have a lot to do, but we’re very encouraged by the level of discussion that is under way.”

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