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 discharged – untreated – 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 was 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.
The United States government sold the land to a private developer who divided up the land into small lots and sold them as vacation spots. To get approval for plat, developer was required to form a public sewer district (Kitsap County Sewer District formed!). However, he 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 by 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 much 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 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 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 and asked 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. Primary treatment system involved several community septic tanks to capture solids. Primary treated wastewater was still discharged into Rich Passage after being treated with chlorine.
Sewer District Commissioner Kit Spier and independent civil engineer Mike Yuhl volunteered countless hours to develop 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. All 400 platted properties in the district were assessed about $5,000 each as their share 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 nstalled 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 final treatment step.
Lynwood Center, a neighborhood outside KCSD # 7 boundaries, asked the district to treat their sewage after their treatment system failed. District commissioners agree to provide treatment as long as there is no cost to in-district rate payers.
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.
District upgraded treatment plant to handle out-of-district sewage at no cost to in-district rate payers. Upgrades were paid for by customers outside district.
Fort Ward Treatment Plant treats sewage for about 500 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