Updated: Richland council rejects storm water pond

Tri-City HeraldApril 15, 2014 

Richland residents who objected to a proposed water treatment infiltration pond in their neighborhood say they’re willing to help investigate alternatives after the city council rejected the project.

The residents applauded the council’s decision, saying the proposed facility — designed to naturally filter storm runoff before it reaches the Columbia River — wasn’t a good fit for the residential area in northeast Richland.

“It was never the right site to begin with,” Stacey Meyer, one of the residents, told the Herald after Tuesday’s council meeting.

The council during the session considered awarding a construction contract for the pond project.

Members spent close to two hours listening to residents and city staff, asking questions and deliberating, before ending up in a split vote. Several noted it was a difficult call.

Mayor Pro Tem Phil Lemley and Councilmen Brad Anderson and Bob Thompson voted to award the contract, following the recommendation of city staff. An amendment was added to have a fence built around the pond to make it safer.

Mayor Dave Rose and council members Terry Christensen, Gregory L. Jones and Sandra Kent voted against the infiltration pond, saying they weren’t convinced it was the best option.

“I don’t like the idea of existing houses being there and we come in and put this in their backyard,” Rose said, adding he wants to see a different plan formulated.

The pond was proposed for the west part of the city’s water treatment plant site off Saint Street. For most of the year, the area would remain a grassy lawn, filling with water for a period after storms, Pete Rogalsky, public works director, has said.

The project underwent review by consultants and the state Department of Ecology, he said. An Ecology grant was secured to help with the cost.

Other locations were evaluated, but the Saint Street site was determined to be the best spot, the city said. Other technologies also were considered, but the pond would be better at treating water and the most cost-effective, according to city information.

The pond wouldn’t pose a flood or health hazard, and numerous infiltration facilities already are in place in Richland, the city information said.

But residents had concerns about health and safety, from drowning risks to worries about toxins and contaminants from the runoff.

Residents also said the pond would impact recreation; the greenbelt where the pond was proposed is used by many in the neighborhood.

Several spoke to the council about the project during a meeting in early March, and another round of public comment happened Tuesday night.

“I’m standing up here for my kids,” resident Mark Allen told the council. The infiltration pond could bring hazards, and “I’d like to ask you guys to stand up for my kids, too,” he said.

After the vote, Allen said he feels the council made the right call. “And I think there are some good alternatives that will keep the storm water and its contaminants out of the river,” he said.

Councilman Thompson said the need to treat storm runoff didn’t go away with Tuesday’s vote.

“We still have a storm water issue. We all may agree to disagree about what the answer is. But I heard comments that the citizenry was willing to assist us. We’re going to take you at your word. We look forward to working with you. Let’s get this thing resolved.”

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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