by Linda Shepherd
Mirrormont Water: Close to the Best in the World
I feel grateful that we have such wonderful crisp, pure-tasting water in Mirrormont. I felt doubly so after drinking smelly chlorine water in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and flat, chalky-tasting water in St. Petersburg, Florida.
A few years ago, I gave a talk to students in an Environmental Justice class at Seattle University about water privatization, and became more aware of the impact this has on communities, particularly in poor areas. I began to think about issues surrounding privatizing natural resources such as water, which we all need to live. Traditionally, water has been considered a public utility, a part of the commons.
Rod Loveless, the developer of Mirrormont, installed the first water system in Mirrormont, drilling the first well, constructing a water collection system for the spring, and assembling the original wooden water tank. This became Mirrormont Services, Inc., which was operated by Glenn & Bettie Nordlie.
Washington Water Service Company acquired Mirrormont Services, Inc. and its water system assets in 2000. At the time, WWSC owned and operated 145 water systems within five counties: King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, and Thurston. They are certified by the Washington State Department of Health and on call 24 hours a day, and must meet County, State, and Federal Regulations.
WWSC is a Washington corporation, a public utility, privately owned and under the jurisdiction of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, and apply to them for rate increases. WWSC is a subsidiary of California Water Service Group, which is traded on the NY Stock Exchange, is the largest investor-owned water utility in the West, and the second largest in the U.S. WUTC authorizes WWSC to earn 12% on its shareholders’ investment. As a state-regulated utility, WWSC can only pass on actual operating water system costs, with is no profit mark-up.
In May 2006, WWSC filed for a proposed rate increase of 27.8% to cover increases in transportation expenses, taxes, insurance and increased staff. In 2009 there was an increase of 25.6% to improve equipment and facilities. In November 2011 there was an increase of 21.8%. In September 2014, WWSC filed another request to increase water rates. My water bill for May 1990 was $14.10; for May 2014 it was $24.40
From two regional offices and three field offices (one is in Issaquah), they serve over 50,000 people in 272 communities, and employ more than 50 Washington-based employees. Their customer service center is in Gig Harbor.
Water quality report for 2016 is at http://www.wawater.com/2016/552501.pdf
Mirrormont water is considered groundwater. It comes mainly from four wells from one aquifer, ranging in depth from 224 to 285 feet, and a 461-ft deep well. Water is pumped from the well site to two storage tanks, and then gravity brings it to most of our homes. For homes close to the water tanks, booster pumps re-pump the water from the tanks to increase water pressure to those homes. Mirrormont water is not treated – no chlorination, filtration, or pH adjustment. Our wells are tested for nitrates, copper, lead, and coliform bacteria. However, during periods of low demand, these two well-storage tanks can receive excess water from the chlorinated spring source tank, so low levels of chlorine may be occasionally detected.
Sources of contamination come from fertilizer use, leaching from septic tanks, sewage, corrosion of household plumbing systems, and erosion of natural deposits. Coliform are non-fecal bacteria that are naturally present in the environment; their presence in water is an indication that potentially harmful bacteria may be present. It is important for residents to refrain from dumping paint, household cleaners, solvents, motor oil, gasoline, antifreeze or similar fluids into septic systems or onto the ground. Also limit use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and do not dump or bury garbage in the ground.
Homes along Tiger Mountain Road receive their water from Tiger Mountain spring, and chlorine is added to that tank for disinfection due to potential influence by surface water.
We occasionally receive notices advising us to boil our water, due to the detection of fecal coliform bacteria. WWSC works with the state Department of Health, conducts inspections, extensively samples water quality, disinfects with chlorine, and flushes the system to resolve contamination problems.
In 2008, a WWSC contractor installed a 12” water main down Issaquah-Hobart Road from our water main at Mirrormont Drive to service a small day care and office building. At the same time, WWSC also installed a pressure-regulating valve to control the high pressure at the lower end of Mirrormont Blvd. The developer paid for these improvements. Other improvements made then include upgrading existing pressure control valves and constructing a booster station at the reservoir site to increase water pressure to homes near the reservoir in order to transfer water more smoothly along Tiger Mtn Rd.
In 2010, WWSC replaced a pressure-reducing station on Mirrormont Dr. & 245th Ave. SE, upgraded other pressure-reducing stations with relief valves to protect from over-pressurizing in lower elevations in the event the pressure-reducing station fails to close completely. To improve pressure to homes in the upper elevations on 152nd St., 154th Pl. & 266th Ave., and improve water quality and fire flow to all homes, WWSC installed a new booster station at the reservoir site, together with re-configuring the reservoir fill piping to better circulate water in the reservoirs. This new booster station will also help transfer water between Pressure Zone 2 (area of Tiger Mtn Rd) and Pressure Zone 1 (area of Mirrormont down to Issaquah Hobart Rd). WWSC also installed radio-read type meters, and a new generator at the well site, which starts automatically and runs the well pumps during power outages.