Bainbridge to confront possible environmental charges in sewer main break

Bainbridge Island may face a penalty for not having the appropriate permits to perform emergency pipeline repairs in Eagle Harbor.

Following the break of a force main Aug. 30 that resulted in a major sewage spill into the harbor, city officials were not concerned about facing fines for the faulty main.

City officials are now worried, however, about not having the proper permit before making the pipeline repairs.

In this week's meeting for the Utility Advisory Committee, Interim Public Works Director John Cunningham explained the city's latest Emergency Hydraulic Project Approval permit had lapsed in 2009. It has not been renewed since.

The emergency permit is issued by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to protect freshwater and marine habitats from construction projects that obstruct the natural bed or flow of state waters.

"There could be some enforcement action that comes as a result of not having the (permit) in place, because they don't issue after-the-fact (permits)," Cunningham said.

City officials realized they lacked a permit Monday.

State officials, the city manager and Cunningham are still early in the process of determining the next steps, but Cunningham told the UAC he expects the city will at least look into obtaining a current permit to use in the future.

The break in the sewer main that prompted discussion of an emergency environmental permit occurred on the south end of Highway 305 on Aug. 30. Public Works employees responded to the main failure and installed a bypass line the same evening. The following morning, crews returned to the broken main and made repairs during low tide.

Following the repairs, the Kitsap Health District held a "no contact" advisory on all public access beaches surrounding Eagle Harbor. The advisory was removed Sept. 10 due to positive water tests.

Cunningham said the public works department is currently installing low-flow monitors for the force main.

"It's in the process of being done now, and is something that in hindsight we certainly could have done earlier," he said.

With the environmental permit in mind, Cunningham told the committee the public works department will present information on sewer main construction in Eagle Harbor at next week's city council meeting. Public works expects to be done installing new pipeline by the end of next summer.

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