Unified Sewer Plan Update
The Unified Sewer Plan will reflect Pierce County’s ongoing commitments to a healthy Puget Sound and strategic goals of supporting vibrant communities, effective government, and an entrepreneurial climate.
Pierce County Planning & Public Works is currently updating the Unified Sewer Plan (USP), which is an all-encompassing plan that dovetails the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan and will guide the County’s sewer utility for the next 20 years. The plan describes the sewer service area, existing collection and treatment system and outlines policies, goals, and plans that will guide future expansion and improvements.
The USP also addresses elements required by the Washington State Department of Ecology, including the General Sewerage Plan, the Puget Sound Nutrient General Permit, expansion of sustainability, and the resource recovery efforts of biosolids, biogas, and reclaimed water.
Pierce County’s wastewater utility staff engages with ratepayers, elected officials, tribal partners, stakeholders, and regulators to understand their expectations and develop strategies for how best to balance those expectations while maintaining equitable rates.
Our business case evaluations include considerations of the environment and social awareness to the standard cost/benefit/risk analysis, and address sustainability, sewer capacity, recovery, and wastewater treatment byproduct (such as reclaimed water, biosolids, biogas and nutrient reduction).
- 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 2010 USP and will explore improvements to existing sewerage treatment, conveyance processes and recoverable resources.
- Continue to provide customers with high-quality sanitary sewer services at reasonable rates.
Policy topics for future consideration include:
• 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
Washington State Department of Ecology and the Pierce County Council have approval oversight of the final plan. See below for more detail about the timing and goals for each phase.
(Note: Timelines have shifted due to the pandemic response needs, prioritized policy work, and to ensure coordination with broader Pierce County’s Comprehensive Plan timing.)
The prework and contracting took place in 2019-2020.
Phase 1: Establish Baseline and Boundary Conditions (2020-2023)
Develop guiding criteria for the USP, based on long-term needs of the County. They include:
Phase 2: Develop and Assess Program Options (2023 – 2024)
Identify policy and program options and select preferred alternatives, including:
Phase 3: Develop Implementation Framework (2025)
- Document selected projects, prioritization, and finance strategy.
- Synthesis of the planning document.
- Stakeholder engagement.
- Establish Review Board.
Following adoption of the Pierce County Comprehensive Plan, the USP will go through the following process for formal adoption:
- Assemble a Basin Review Committee – public meeting – all cities included based on population (RCW 36.94.50)
- Present final draft to Pierce County Planning Commission
- County Ordinance and resolution presented to Pierce County Council
- Submittal to Department of Ecology