Photo by Steve Shay
Michael Harkin was raised in this house. His father still owns it. It is one of six dwellings scheduled for demolition next year to make way for the new Murray Pump Station. He is upset with the plan. The homes are located directly across the street from Lowman Beach Park. One is a former grocery store, another, a former gas station. An earlier plan to bury a million gallon tank under the park was scrapped in favor of this plan.

Lowman Beach Park neighbors protest Murray Pump Station plan

Six houses scheduled for demolition, King County to help renters, owners relocate

Residents near Lowman Beach Park and the King County Wastewater Treatment Division (KCWTD) agree on three major issues, that a million gallon tank should not, and will not, be buried under that park, that a new treatment plant is necessary, and that the project will cost about $40 million. Beyond that, however, some residents find little common ground with the KCWTD and its plan to demolish six residential structures directly across the street from the park. One might say the sewage is beginning to hit the fan.

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.

Property owner

Michael Harkin was raised at 7024 Beach Drive, one of the six properties scheduled to come down next year. His father currently owns it, lives in it half a year, and rents out floors of the home. Most of the other five structures are also divided into apartment buildings. One was once a grocery store, and the building on the corner was a gas station. Officially, there is one, five-unit building, two, two-unit buildings, and one, one-unit building.

Harkin has a sentimental attachment to his father's house, worries that Lowman Beach Park will become a staging area for cement trucks and other heavy equipment, and that the corner house, once a gas station, may have oil tanks and polluted soil under it. He said the Citizen’s Advisory Group, or CAG, which was formed by the KCWTD (He is not a member) was duped, and never had a fair say.

CAG initially recommended the tank be buried under a section of parking lot at Lincoln Park.The Fauntleroy Community Association objected, and the county said it would be impractical.

CAG's second preferred option, the "1B Triangle", vacant land located behind the six homes.

He has collected over 3,500 signatures in West Seattle from people he said object to the imminent domain option.

"On April 27 I left my home at noon to deliver 2,560 signatures from our petition to the King County Council. I then went to lunch, came at 3:00p.m, and the sign was up."

He is referring to a large sign in front of his dad's house that reads "Notice of Proposed Land Use Action". Initially it was placed in Lowman Beach Park accidentally, then moved across the street and into the ground by the sidewalk in his father's front lawn.

He said that the timing of the sign going up was ironic, but did acknowledge that the decision to build the Murray project there was decided in December. Still, he believes the decision was actually made before CAG's recommendations were considered.

King County Waste Water Director responds:

"It's very difficult to site these facilities," said Pam Elardo, Director, King County Waste Water Division. "We're talking about a very developed area. The community was very concerned and wanted to be active in participating in finding and suggesting sites, so we offered an additional public involvement process which included numerous workshops from people of all interests from the community, plus a member of Seattle Parks. They suggested other sites, some similar to what the county looked at.

"What I noticed is that CAG's ultimate concern was 'don't mess with the park'", Elardo said, referring to Lowman. "I can understand it. It's an amazing amenity for that neighborhood. The Seattle City Council has a very strict requirement about putting these facilities in parks.

"The irony is that their preferred alternative was to build in another park not in their community." She was referring to Lincoln Park.

"We looked at it very seriously. It would require additional pumping, a lot of additional maintenance costs and wouldn't even solve problem of Lowman Beach. it would be a smaller tank, 60- percent the size (of the current plan)."

The 1B Triangle is considered to be a wetland by the city. Also, it is higher than Beach Drive and would require an additional pump station.

Harkin's concern about the project utilizing Lowman Beach Park is valid. KCWTD told the West Seattle Herald that "a portion of the park's southeast corner would be used 'temporarily' for staging but would not disrupt the use of the tennis court or swings."

Also, they said they will address the gas station issue, and directed the Herald to page #18 of the "Determination of Nonsignificance" document:

A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment would be conducted for the
proposed project site. It would include testing for hazardous materials at
the site. Based on the findings, measures that should be implemented
during demolition and construction to minimize exposure to hazardous
material, properly dispose of hazardous material, and comply with all
pertinent regulatory requirements would be proposed. These measures
would be included in the proposed project’s construction specifications.
Section B.3.d discusses typical BMPs that could be implemented to
prevent spills of contaminants and minimize exposure to environmental
health hazards in the event of a spill.

The buildings to be demolished would be inspected for the presence of
materials that could present health hazards, such as lead paint and
asbestos, prior to demolition. If such materials were present, they would
be properly handled and disposed of when the building is demolished or
before the building is demolished. For example, a contractor certified to
remove and properly dispose of lead paint could be used for demolition of
the buildings.

"Most people from Cag were very pleased when we announced the plan in December," Elardo said. "The site where the homes are is really the only option we legitimately can pursue. It really is hard to do. Don't get me wrong. Taking residences to create projects is not the first thing on our list to go for. There is a very specific relocation policy which is federal law, and the renters and owners are very well taken care of. Often we have to upgrade their living situation. I feel like the American political and legal system did a good job on this one. The owner gets fair market value for their house. We pay moving expenses.

"In the old days we had combined sewer overflows," she pointed out. "They just wanted to get stuff out and there weren't treatment plants so all the wastewater and stormwater went into the same pipes and discharged directly to beaches. Probably straight raw sewage went out Lowman Beach in the olden days. The EPA, Department of Ecology, and other state regulatory agencies make sure we are committed to moving forward with a project. It's unfortunate we are stuck in this situation to put a site in a dense area, but that's what we were required to do."

Public can still weigh in:

People can submit written comments on the SEPA determinations by mail through May 16, 2011, to:

Wesley Sprague, Supervisor, Community Services and Environmental Planning
King County Wastewater Treatment Division
201 South Jackson Street, MS: KSC-NR-0505
Seattle, WA 98104-3855

Also, during the permitting process people will have comment periods and will be able to weigh in regarding work hours, noise, and the County we will be going out into the public to get feedback of design elements.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.