Steve Shay
King County’s current plan includes placing a million-gallon tank under Lowman Beach Park. The tank may be too large for the park, and too small to capture sewage during a heavy rain event.

UPDATED: Lowman Park advocate says “No tanks!" to one option and holds petition drive

Lowman Beach Park resident and community activist Dr. Ron Sterling is also a psychiatrist, and may be just what the doctor ordered as he organizes against the installation of a million-gallon sewer tank in the quaint neighborhood park. There are so many players with conflicting interests in this construction site ordeal that even Carl Jung may have had difficulties identifying all the archetypes in the mix.

An aging sewer generator system, the Murray Pump Station, is currently under a small section of the park. Two miles south, the Barton Pump Station, by the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock, also has plans to expand.

Sterling, who rents a cottage adjacent to Lowman Beach Park, just launched a new blog clarifying his positions on his tank-less fight, www.soundangels.org. In it he states, “I have been more intimately involved than I ever really wanted to be with King County Wastewater Treatment Division (KCWTD) plans for the Murray Pump Station since early 2005. During 2005-2007, I and two other neighbors, along with Dow Constantine and Tom Rasmussen, were able to get KCWTD plans for expanding the Murray Pump Station to be sited under the sidewalk and the street instead of inside the Lowman Beach Park. However, those plans were shelved by KCWTD in anticipation of the upcoming plans for a large CSO (He refers to combined sewer overflows) tank to be placed somewhere in the Murray Pump Station area.”

One complication is that, according to Sterling, the million-gallon tank will be both too big, and too small. Too big because he believes its large size will decimate the park, which only has about an acre and a half of actual grass park. In a major rain event, he said a colleague has witnessed these tanks popping right up from the ground since they are buried below sea level. Also there will be an aboveground backup diesel generator in the park that will require ongoing testing and maintenance, creating traffic and noise at the site.

The tank is too small, he said, and needs to be three to five million gallons to accept a major flood event. He thinks the county is not thinking ahead, but instead just complying with minimum legal standards, and will constantly have to upgrade the site. The function of the tank is to accept sewage overflow resulting from heavy rains. Without any tank, sewage would back up into houses. He said a flood typically sends five million gallons of sewage through these tanks, and what the tank cannot accept, the “floodgates” open and raw sewage then flows into the Sound.

The Barton Pump Station Design will directly impact the Murray Pump Station as Loman is “downstream” and the sewage overflow from Barton’s new tank will race toward Lowman and quickly fill the Murray tank. Barton’s tank may be limited to just two hundred thousand gallons, a fifth the size of Murray’s. Some Lowman area residents insist that if you do the math, Fauntleroy’s raw sewage will end up off Lowman Beach Park after a heavy rain.

“My solution is a large pump station hidden in Lincoln Park, which is a (135.4)-acre park,” said Sterling, 64. (Late correction)

He said it would minimally impact Lincoln Park and pointed out there is a Seattle Parks Southwest division headquarters located at the northern (late correction) tip of the park that “most people don’t even know is there.”

“Seattle Parks and Recreation deeply regrets that any of the park will be restricted for community use for process of construction,” spokeswoman Joelle Hammerstad told the West Seattle Herald, referring to Lowman. “But the other side is that all the agencies involved including ours has the same goal of protecting Puget Sound,” she added. “Parks and Rec. will work towards getting compensation for the land.”

That’s if the project moves forward.

“I’ve been working several years with the community on this,” Seattle Councilman Tom Rasmussen told the West Seattle Herald, referring to the Murray Pump Station plans. “This project should be done in a way to address their concerns, and I am disappointed if it has not. I will continue to work to get Metro’s Wastewater Treatment Division to respond to their concerns. I will contact that division. I want to insure that they are listening, and will redouble my efforts. This has been an ongoing frustrating issue.”

“Nobody wants to see a small neighborhood park destroyed,” said Sterling. “It’s sacrificing a park for nothing. If you’re going to sacrifice a small neighborhood park, you better have a darn good reason for it. The Puget Sound is a treasure. There’s nothing else like it in the United States. This is it, man.”

Sterling offers a petition page on his website to gather signatures to save the park at: http://soundangels.wordpress.com/petition/

For more details check out: www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wtd

Two items and headline were tweaked per Dr. Ron Serling's comments. Thank you for the clarifications! -Steve Shay

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