Kapowsin Water District Receivership

Pierce County was court-appointed as the receiver of the Kapowsin Water District (KWD) on November 29, 2017. A failed water transmission line required the trucking of water to the 40 residential customers of the water system while repairs were made. Pierce County is obligated to provide a reliable water supply for KWD and to recover costs incurred to do so. Grants have been pursued to reduce costs passed on to KWD customers for the new well.  

Economic relief for Kapowsin Water District customers
The Pierce County Council has approved extending the economic relief for sewer and water customers, including Kapowsin Water District to March 5, 2021. Pierce County originally suspend late fees and interest for 90 days following Governor Inslee’s emergency declaration on March 6, 2020. Please contact Sewer Customer Billing Services with questions at (253) 798-4020.

Status Update on Receivership and Well Drill Project

The 24-hour pump test results show that the well drill site produced insufficient water quantity and very poor water quality needed to support the Kapowsin Water District (KWD) system. Please know that the KWD customers will not pay for this current well drilling project. Grants covered the entire costs for this work. 

Pierce County is currently working with regulatory and funding partners to research all alternatives and determine next steps. Funding partners have indicated the potential for more grant money being available, which we are exploring further, and will be a key consideration in determining future water source options. 

Valley Water District was awarded a Consolidation Grant from Washington Department of Health (DOH) to investigate the feasibility of connecting the Kapowsin Water District water system to Valley’s Country/El Dorado water system. It is anticipated that the DOH grant contract will be finalized in January 2021. Valley will begin work on the study after final execution of the DOH grant contract. 

Please see the Declaration of Katherine Brooks and Report to the Court documents for October 2020 posted under the Latest Documents section. Those documents provide specific details regarding the receivership, well drilling project findings, financials and more. The next court status update is scheduled to occur July 30, 2021.

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Receivership Updates

  1. 2021
  2. 2020
  3. 2019
  4. 2018
February 3 
  • A service line break occurred at 15705 Griggs Rd. Valley Water District was informed of the leak at noon and repaired the issue and restored water service by 6 p.m. A service line made of thin-walled (1.25-inch) poly tubing, buried 12-inches to 18-inches deep had failed. The pipe had a significant kink and split about six inches from the kink. The Valley Water District crew excavated the site and replaced the damaged section with new pipe. The leak was not significant enough to drain storage tanks or depressurize the system. No boiled water advisory was required. Washington State Department of Health – Office of Drinking Water was notified of the water line break.

Kapowsin Water District Receivership Action

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Tacoma Pierce County Health Department share responsibility for enforcing state drinking water regulations ensuring safe and reliable drinking water. When a water system fails to do this, and has exhausted all reasonable outlets for returning to compliance, DOH may request the court to appoint a receiver to operate the water system. 

DOH was unable to find an entity willing to be the receiver of Kapowsin Water District. Per Washington State law (RCW 43.70.195), the County where the water district resides is the receiver of last resort. On November 8, 2017, DOH filed a receivership petition for Kapowsin Water District (KWD) with Pierce County Superior Court and on November 13, 2017 a Superior Court Commissioner signed an order naming Pierce County as temporary Receiver of KWD.  On November 29, 2017, a court order was signed naming Pierce County permanent receiver of KWD.

Pierce County’s goal is to provide the Kapowsin Water District customers with safe and reliable drinking water.  In response to the receivership action, on November 29, 2017 the Pierce County Executive signed a Proclamation of Emergency allowing the County the resources to move forward with emergency actions to keep Kapowsin customers in water and restore their water source. The court order requires Pierce County to pursue a new well as a long term potable water source.

Brief History

The Kapowsin Water District (KWD) is a  water system located in Kapowsin, WA, located about 25 miles southeast of Tacoma in unincorporated Pierce County. KWD has a three-member board responsible for operating, maintaining, billing and making decisions for their system. The water system currently serves 40 connections. 

The KWD board had previously contracted with Valley Water District (VWD) to manage the water system with the hopes of merging the two separate districts into Valley.  A resolution was drafted, but was put on hold in in the spring of 2017 when the transmission line for the KWD water system broke. Valley began trucking in water to Kapowsin with a cost between $4,000 – 4,800/month.  

Valley submitted a federal Rural Development (RD) grant application on behalf of Kapowsin to pay for either fixing the broken transmission line or drilling a new well water source but were not successful in securing funds for this year or getting a solid commitment for funds in the future. As a result, Valley terminated their Agreement for Water System Management and Operation on November 17, 2017. (See link below). This termination of the management contract, coupled with the failed water source, triggered the DOH receivership action.

2019 Special Assessment

Maintenance and operation of KWD ran a deficit 2017-2018. Beginning June, 1, 2019, each connection will be charged a special assessment to recover the costs. Information about this special assessment was shared at a public meeting for KWD customers held May 8, 2019. 

The special assessment recoups maintenance and operations costs from November 2017-November 2018. The special assessment does not pay for improvements to provide a long-term reliable water source for KWD customers.

Questions and Answers

How is Kapowsin Water District getting water now?
Original surface water source has been repaired and is currently providing water until a new well source is developed and fully operational.

Who is maintaining the water system?
Pierce County is under contract with Valley Water District to manage the Kapowsin water system during receivership. 

Who do I call if there is an emergency situation with my water?
In the event of an emergency in the Kapowsin Water System please contact the 24 hr emergency number for Pierce County at 253-798-7000.  Once notified of an emergency situation, the County will contact Valley Water District to notify them of the emergency situation and request them to proceed with completing necessary emergency work.  If VWD is notified directly or discovers an emergency situation they will notify the County, as soon as it is feasible, of the scope, estimated cost of repairs and any corrective actions taken. The District will notify their 24 hour/7 day-a-week answering service of any emergency situations and if feasible will utilize a variety of methods (website, door hangers, knock on doors, etc.) to notify Kapowsin customers of any potential impacts resulting from the emergency situation.

What is the status of the Kapowsin Water District and KWD Board?
The Kapowsin Water District still exists. However, based on the Superior Court receivership appointment, Pierce County now has full authority to make all decisions regarding the water system. The County is tasked with acting in the best interest of the customers while working towards full compliance with the regulations. As part of the receivership process, DOH and Pierce County will update the judge on actions taken and make a recommendation as to what should happen to the water system into the future. The judge will decide the ultimate actions regarding the Kapowsin Water District.

Who is the contact for an Escrow company?
Any inquiries for escrow purposes should be referred to our Pierce County Customer Billing Services group at 253-798-4020.  

I have property that is in the Kapowsin Water District boundary. Can I still connect?
At this time, the answer is no. The Washington State Department of Health evaluates water systems and assigns a permit category. The Kapowsin system is currently in the blue permit category – meaning it is substantially in compliance, but does not meet the standards in some areas. The County is working to get the system back into compliance. You can read more about this regulation by clicking here.

Is there a Pierce County water bill reduction program for seniors or disabled persons? 
No program currently exists in Pierce County that would reduce water bills for seniors or disabled persons. The Water Assistance Program from Living Access Support Alliance may be able to help people who are at risk of having water shut off to their homes due to missed payments.

What is receivership?

The secretary of health or a local health officer can petition the court to place a failing public water system in receivership. The petition names a candidates(s) who agrees to assume operation of the water system. The Department of Health (DOH) recommends the court grant the receiver full authority to act in the best interests of the water system customers. This includes reporting recommendations for the system’s future operation to the court. The court appoints the county where the water system is located if no other entity is willing, capable or able to act as receiver.

The receiver can’t be held personally liable for any good faith, reasonable effort to assume and operate the system in compliance of court order. The receiver is authorized to collect reasonable charges on the water system customers to recover costs for maintenance, operations and improvements necessary for public health and safety.
 Once the petition is filed:
  • Within 3 days the court schedules an initial hearing naming the temporary receiver.
  • Within 14 days of the petition being filed, a full evidentiary hearing is held. The court enters an order, drafted with county participation, authorizing the county to proceed under powers granted by the order. 
  • The County takes control of management of the system, brings it up to required standards, then finds a qualified manager to take over the system permanently.
  • DOH and the County will provide the court with status updates and a final plan, including all reasonable and feasible alternatives, for disposition of the system. The court cannot require an entity to accept a system unless they agree to the terms and conditions in the disposition plan. The court can’t terminate receivership and return the system to the owners unless DOH approves of such action.

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