U.S. Army Coast Artillery Fort Ward established to guard Rich Passage, the entrance to the new Bremerton Naval Shipyard. By the turn of the 20th century, guns were installed along the beach to guard a floating mine field. The first permanent buildings were constructed in 1910, and a rudimentary sewage system was built as part of the facility, connecting the buildings on base. Raw sewage was effectively discharged directly into Rich Passage.
Fort Ward was turned over to the U.S. Navy for use as a top-secret radio listening post (focused on Japan) and radio operator school. Untreated sewage remained being discharged into Rich Passage.
Based turned over to the U.S. Army, who continued to use the facility as a radio listening post, now focused on the Soviet Union and Korea. Sewer system stayed substantially the same with untreated sewage being discharged into Rich Passage
The United States government sold the land to a private developer who divided the land into small lots and sold them as vacation spots. To get approval for the plat, developer was required to form a public sewer district (Kitsap County Sewer District was formed!). However, the developer was not required to upgrade the sewer system, which continued to discharge raw sewage into Rich Passage.
U.S. Clean Water Act passed. Sewage treatment was now required to meet secondary treatment
standards, a process that speeds up the natural breakdown of sewage through the introduction of naturally occurring micro-organisms.
With fewer than 40 ratepayers, building a multi-million dollar sewage treatment plant required under the new Clean Water Act was too great of a financial burden. Sewer district commissioners developed plans for lower-tech, less expensive solutions, such as a community drain field. However, all of these plans were rejected by state officials.
Kitsap County government stepped in to lead an effort to develop a sewage treatment plan for entire south Bainbridge Island.
Citizen oversight committee rejected Kitsap County’s proposed south island sewage treatment plan as too expensive. After the committee’s rejection of the treatment plan, Kitsap County government stepped out.
Washington State Department of Ecology sued Kitsap County Sewer District #7 for violation of the Clean Water Act. The judge noted that the sewer district had been trying to comply with the law but had insufficient means, and asked the Department of Ecology to assist.
Washington State approved a two-tiered plan that allowed KCSD#7 to temporarily treat sewage at primary treatment levels while planning for a secondary treatment plant. The primary treatment system involved several community septic tanks to capture solids, and the primary treated wastewater was still discharged into Rich Passage after only being treated with chlorine.
Sewer District Commissioner Kit Spier and independent civil engineer Mike Yuhl volunteered countless hours to develop a secondary treatment plant proposal. Once the plan was approved, they worked to obtain grants for its construction. In the end, they secured $1.3 million in grants and $1.7 million in Centennial Clean Water Fund loans. At that time there were about 400 platted properties in the district, and each of these parcels were assessed approximately $5,000 as their share of the plant’s cost to be paid off over 20 years.
Thanks to Mike Yuhl’s oversight, the plant was completed on time and on budget. In addition to a new plant, concrete pipes were installed to replace old clay pipes. A private contractor – who also runs other small plants in Kitsap and Jefferson Counties – was hired to run day-to-day plant operations. In order to be as environmentally friendly as possible, the plant uses ultraviolet light, instead of chlorine, in its final wastewater treatment process.
Lynwood Center, a neighborhood outside KCSD#7 boundaries, asked the district to treat their sewage after its treatment system failed. District commissioners agreed to provide treatment as long as there was no cost to in-district rate payers. In 1997 the first interlocal agreement between KCSD#7 and the City of Bainbridge Island was executed to accommodate Lynwood Center sending its sewage to the district’s plant for treatment.
Residents of the neighborhoods of Rockaway Beach, Pleasant Beach, Point White and Emerald Heights, areas also outside the sewer district, asked KCSD#7 to treat their sewage since septic systems in those neighborhoods were failing. The district agreed, providing that there be no cost to in-district rate payers. In 2003 the second interlocal agreement between KCSD#7 and the City of Bainbridge Island was executed to replace the first one in order to accommodate these new neighborhoods along with Lynwood Center in sending its sewage to the district’s plant for treatment. Captain John Blakely Elementary School’s sewage was also included in this agreement.
District upgraded its treatment plant to handle the out-of-district sewage at no cost to in-district rate payers. Upgrades were paid by customers outside the district through the interlocal agreements And, in 2007 a third interlocal agreement between KCSD#7 and the City of Bainbridge Island replaced the first two in order to accommodate the increase in sewage for the City’s anticipated growth in the Lynwood Center area.
Fort Ward Treatment Plant treats sewage for about 650 residences and businesses both inside and outside district, and continues to earn “Outstanding Wastewater Treatment Plant” awards from the Washington State Department of Ecology. KCSD#7 continues to keep monthly rates as low as possible – about half the cost of nearby City of Bainbridge Island’s sewer system.
Learn more about Fort Ward’s history