Unified Sewer Plan Update
Wastewater Treatment facilities around Puget Sound face regulatory and environmental pressures to develop, implement, and improve wastewater treatment processes to meet increasing water quality regulations for effluent discharge.
The Unified Sewer Plan will reflect Pierce County’s ongoing commitment to a healthy Puget Sound and our goals of supporting vibrant communities, effective government and economic growth.
What is the Unified Sewer Plan?
Pierce County Planning and Public Works is currently updating the Unified Sewer Plan, which is a comprehensive plan that will guide the Division for the next 20 years. The plan describes the sewer service area, existing collection and treatment system and outlines policies, goals and approached that will guide future expansion and improvements.
The Unified Sewer Plan will also address elements required by the Department of Ecology, including the general sewerage planning, expansion of sustainability, resource recovery efforts (biosolids and biogas management), and improved treatment to reduce nutrients in outflow.
The first Unified Sewer Plan was adopted by Pierce County in 2001 and a minor update was completed in 2010. The update will address regulatory changes that have been made since the 2010 update and will explore improvements to existing sewer, water and energy lines of business.
- Support growth and economic development in Pierce County
- Meet customer expectations of balancing investment value with the health of Puget Sound
- Facilitate ongoing compliance with current and future regulatory requirements
- Address regulatory changes that have been made since the last update in 2010 and will explore improvements to existing sewer, water and energy services
As part of developing the Unified Sewer Plan, Sewer Division staff will engage with ratepayers, elected officials, tribes, stakeholders, and regulators to understand their expectations and to develop strategies for how best to balance those expectations while maintaining affordable rates.
Our business case evaluations will include consideration of the environment and social awareness to the standard cost/benefit/risk analysis, and address sustainability, sewer capacity, resource recovery and wastewater treatment byproducts (such as biosolids, biogas and nutrient reduction).
- Strategies for providing sewer service
- How we finance future growth
- Anticipated changes to regulations
- Sustainability and environmental stewardship
- Opportunities for partnerships/regionalization of services such as Biosolids Management
- Evaluation of other services, such as water and energy
Pierce County launched the USP update project in March of 2020 and expects to finalize the plan in 2022. Stakeholder engagement will assist in initial plan development, analysis and environmental review of alternatives. The Pierce County Council and Department of Ecology have approval oversight of the final plan. See below for more detail about the timing and goals for each phase.
Phase 1 Goal - Develop guiding criteria for Unified Sewer Plan
Staff is identifying stakeholder expectations, reviewing financial and organizational capacity, determining the condition and performance of current assets, and defining the external drivers of the plan.
Phase 2 Goal - Develop and assess program options to meet guiding criteria
Staff will test technical approaches with stakeholders, conduct an integrated programmatic environmental review, conduct a cost/benefit analysis and align the results with the level of service goals, and develop program options.
Phase 3 Goal - Develop implementation strategy and plan adoption around the 4 P’s (projects, policies, people, and pricing)
Staff will complete the planning document, report back to stakeholders, and secure approval by Pierce County and the Department of Ecology.