School district tackles sewer dilemma

Illahee Middle School is located at 36001 1st Ave. S. in Federal Way. - Courtesy photo
Illahee Middle School is located at 36001 1st Ave. S. in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A stinky problem highlights one school’s effort to trade a septic system for sewer service.

Rod Leland, facilities director for Federal Way Public Schools, found himself put on the spot by school board president Tony Moore during the board’s Dec. 13 meeting. Moore asked Leland about two schools, Lake Grove Elementary and Illahee Middle School.

As far as Illahee was concerned, Moore asked about the status of a project meant to connect that school to a sewer system.

“The other project is near my house, and Illahee…it’s a septic issue, and I’m reminded of that every day when I’m walking by,” Moore said of the school, located at 36001 1st Avenue South, just off South 356th Street.

As for getting Illahee connected to a sewer, Leland said it’s contingent upon the Lakehaven Utility District being successful in negotiating easements.

“When we put together the package for improvements and said, ‘Here’s $20 million,’ a million dollars of that was identified to connect Illahee to a sewer. For those who don’t know, currently it goes into a tank, and we have that tank pumped every day. That material is hauled to a manhole designated by Lakehaven Utility, and it’s dumped there, and that’s a service we pay for. That’s been the condition since the school was built.”

Leland continued.

Lakehaven had put together a plan to serve 356th Street with a major force line sewer that would connect on the east side of Highway 99, he said.

“That plan has been in place, over the last three years, they’ve refined it. It came within one lot of Illahee, it was perfect,” he said. “To build our part of the system, which would be a four-inch force main to connect to the part that Lakehaven was building…It would take the sewage down to the east side of Pacific Highway and connect it to their major force line. That was a perfect melding.”

Leland said Lakehaven’s plan for this connection ran into a few snags.

Lakehaven has been pursuing easements on properties to build the force main. The force main comes across undeveloped land, crosses wetlands, crosses native forests, and then crosses developed properties.

“They have not been able to put together all the elements they need,” he said.

If the district were to try and take on the project itself, Leland said FWPS would end up right where Lakehaven is, fighting to get easements through all those properties, and that the $1 million set aside for the project would be quickly used up.

Leland said the district is ready and geared to go.

“We’re poised to do our part, we’ve had Pyramid Engineers do our part, we’ve had conversations with Lakehaven,” he said. “We know what our part looks like, they know what their part looks like. We’re financed. That’s where we are currently.”

Lake Grove Elementary

For Lake Grove, Moore said he had recently visited during a rainy day, and noticed a number of leaks in the school’s roof and ceiling. Moore wondered if Lake Grove was on the agenda for Leland and his crew anytime soon to get the problem fixed.

“I know I’m throwing that at you out of the blue, but I was committed to bringing that up to you, only because of the number of leaks in the roof,” Moore said.

Leland said he wasn’t 100 percent sure of where Lake Grove was in the queue for projects.

“I believe there are 68 projects from the $20 million,” Leland answered, referencing money set aside in recent years for construction and upkeep projects. “And where we are with the Lake Grove roof…I wouldn’t want to report to you tonight, because I’m not certain.”

The district’s facilities service director told the board he would look into it, and email them in the near future. In a post meeting conversation, Leland said the Lake Grove roof project is in Phase 3, and is expected to be put out to bid in the spring or summer.


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